Liberal Democrats, Tony Blair, Liberal Party discussed on Talking Politics
Hello my name's David Runciman and this is talking politics. We're going to get back to talking about British politics today from Blair to Johnson to Brexit. I'm beyond talking. Politics is brought to you in partnership with the London. Review of books and the now has a beautiful new website. Tomorrow mark its fortieth anniversary. Jus- go to alabi DOT CO dot U. K. And you will discover a treasure trove of articles from the last forty years and all the latest writing including Adam shots on the death of Cellini. If you take out a subscription you will get all this and so much more. The print magazine the alabi APP and unlimited access to that archive all for just one pound issue to subscribe visit. Alabi dot me food slashed. Today it is me and Helen. We're in a slightly different location so there might be a bit of background noise. We apologize for that. We've been talking about Europe for a few weeks but British politics has been moving on and we're going to cover a few things starting with the speech that Tony Blair gave last week to celebrate the hundred and twentieth birthday of Labor Party. I believe the birthday is today that they were recording. It was a typical Tony Blair speech and it was really annoying and it was also quite interesting and he said that the Labor Party needs to do three things. If it's going to get back in the game the one goal the coverage was it needs to not go down the cul de sac of identity politics so we are not going to get on the cul de sac. Talking about Tony Blair on identity politics. We're GONNA talk about the other two which didn't get nearly as much coverage. She said the other two things that Labor needs to do Get back into some kind of progressive liberal coalition. The black project has always been to some extent to reunite the Liberal Party and the Labour Party and for our American listeners. We have to be clear here. That liberal doesn't mean US liberal. It means the British Liberal Party by chance. Yesterday I bumped in someone in the street who happened to be listening to our Mike League Naughty episode an American who stopped me and said how can you call him liberal? And he's not for Bernie. I'm I didn't know where to start except to say he's Canadian. Liberal means so many different things in different places the Liberal Progressive Alliance here does not mean Bernie and then the other thing. Blessed Labor needs to do which people in labor and indeed in search democratic parties around the Western World. Been saying for about twenty years is workout opposable account of the future which takes account of the fact that the nature of labor is changing. We are entering the age digital automation and Labor. Needs a story about the future of work and that means a new story about the economy. A news story about the nature of government. All of these things have to be completely reconfigured and this was an implicit criticism of the leadership candidates. All of them. I think they weren't looking for that progressive alliance and they weren't telling a story about a feature. Helen do you buy it? Well I think that depends which aspect to this that we're talking about if we start with the first issue bless plea for there to be cooperation between Labour and the Liberal Democrat so he did sort of touch some conditions in to that in terms of the Liberal Democrats being serious it wasn't just a plea labor as he sees it to be serious. I think several things struck me about it. The first is that Blair has always been alone in this obviously but very keen on this language of being progressive in some sense that doesn't actually differentiate him from people much further to the left within the Labour Party and all of the leadership candidates totally comfortable in the language of progressivism. It's just they don't like the joining with the Democrats. Are we read the speech again this morning? And it's pretty difficult to work out. What Blair actually means by progressive? I mean in some sense. I think that which is quite common with him. It is it means newness because it means the future is the other bit visual of something. That's new against something that's all. I mean that's sort of central the whole idea of in presenting his new labour. And he always you know in his heyday like to identify Labor with future conservatives with the with the past but clearly there are plenty of people who think that being progressive means a lot more than simply being in favor of what's new against what's owed and not really interested in disentangling giving any specific meaning really to his idea of being progressive is but the second thing about it is that it's really strange history. I think that that he's telling because in his version of history that there's some sort of birth defects is the phrase that you use. It goes wrong right at the beginning because labor in the liberals should be the same party at the beginning of the twentieth century on. They they come apart and that this is the ongoing tragedy of the centre-left and progressive politics and by the reason why the Conservatives keep winning election absolutely hot from him no Labour leader. Living Labour leader has managed to but really talking about such a short period of time. I think where you could say that there is this almost mythical liberal labour cooperation which is around the time when liberals were in power and when they were landslide victory. We'd Labor's help all effectively part at the Times. Help nine hundred ninety six. I think about forty eight seats where the Liberals are stand in one thousand nine hundred six and that is a reforming liberal government. Passes some of the early welfare state legislation but that Liberal Party I mean can say several things about it first of all. It's it's going to come apart in the end just like the previous version of liberalism. The Liberal Party did over home rule. It's going to come over the first world war you could also say that the two most consequential people in that liberal government turn out to be Lou. George who in the end when faced with a choice is going to take his version of the liberals into a coalition with the Conservatives as outlast the first world war Winston Churchill who's obviously not some emblem of progressive progressive politics. So you've got a pretty small period of time in which you can say that this sort of mythical corporation that is what is necessary actually is on. It doesn't last. It makes me think of the fact that many people in the Labour party believed that stories being repeated because Nick Clegg given the choice also showed that he was more comfortable forming a government with the Conservatives them with the Labor Party and that as they say it. Betrayal will take a long time to unwind itself. I think Blair also thinks the other missed moment was nineteen ninety-seven. There's always a story. That's told about him that he was completely prepared. In government with a sort of smallish majority to reach out to the Liberal Democrats and then the British people selfishly gave him an absolutely massive majority and say the moment was passed and I think he still believes that he missed a moment. Now and then. There's the question that I was thinking about. Whenever these things it's an alliance or coalition but what's the former politics will cement it. We talked about this. A few weeks ago Blah ninety-seven made a very good case against proportional representation. Which is one route? Great it one of the presiding stories of politics is the idea. There is this anti-tory alliance but it needs a different voting systems. Come to the fore. The other option is the nineteen ninety-six gas which is deals between seats across seas. We just had an election that shows what incredibly fragile thing is the frustration. I have with the Blair account and it connects to the other point about reimagining the economy for the digital age and reimagining. What government would look like? It never reimagined the political system itself. It's always has to be Kinda pass through a very very conventional account of what the goal of politics is which is for political parties under this political system to win power. And we've got one hundred plus years of history showing that doesn't work in the direction of these kinds of alliances and yet he's not because nothing in there about how you'd hold it together. Yeah I think you can also say. Is that what we seen since the one thousand nine hundred eighty s is when you do get a period and I would say that that runs from nine hundred ninety two actually through to probably to two thousand and ten where you do get some tacit corporation between Labor and the Democrat. Voters basically a tactical voting in ways. That make it difficult for the conservative. So that I say it begins in ninety two because you've got much reduced conservative majority of pretty much the same share of the vote in Nineteen ninety-two. It's dependent on the low party being led by somebody like tiny black so if you get the conditions that have quite a lot of Liberal Democrat Labour Corporation than you have a Labor Party. That doesn't actually need the Liberal Democrats not to any considerable extent as soon as you have an election like the ones in two thousand fifteen and two thousand and nineteen where you have very considerable skepticism from potential anti-tory voters about the Labour leader. Whether that's because the significantly far to the left like Corbin or because of the Scottish nationalist issue like in two thousand fifteen with Ed milliband you actually make per difficult for quite a number of potential debris Democrat voters to vote Liberal Democrat because faced with a choice between Labour leader on the conservative state. They go with conservatives. I think that that goes back to the fact that if you look at what happened then to the Liberal Party after the first World War once he starts having these very heavy electoral defeats if you look in the in the nineteen twenties when it makes some recovery particularly in one thousand nine hundred eighty nine does so by taking votes away conservatives and not by taking votes away from the Labor Party so the idea that nobody can compete for itself and then offer corporation to liberal voters whether the old liberal voters all only put Democrat voters ignores the fine that the liberals and the Liberal Democrats have got complicated relationship with the Conservative Party and indeed with potential conservative voters. Another thing that's true. Is that the great wedge in this Mythical Progressive Liberal coalition was the one that Blair introduced by fighting the Iraq war. That's what broke it. So you said this period from ninety two to two thousand and ten but there is this huge dividing line in that period which is two thousand and three which both reinvigorates a Liberal Democrats missiles create this narrative. That's still playing out in the Labor Party about betrayal and what went wrong and is another version..