Heirs of eternal Liberalism

Andrew Adonis is right about Labour and the Lib Dems.

My colleague James Macintyre mentioned this morning a piece that the Transport Secretary, Andrew Adonis, wrote recently for the Independent, urging tactical voting and articulating what he called the "fundamental Labour-Lib Dem identity of interest".

The key paragraph in Adonis's piece was the following:

Philosophically it is a nonsense to pretend that the Lib Dems -- or the "Social and Liberal Democrats", to give the party its original name -- are equidistant between left and right, or Labour and Tory. The Liberal Party of Gladstone, Asquith and Lloyd George fought the Tories relentlessly to introduce democracy and social rights. Keynes and Beveridge -- Liberals both -- produced the rationale and the blueprint for the modern welfare state enacted by Attlee's Labour government after 1945.

Adonis is right. And he might also have mentioned the influence on British social democracy of "New Liberal" thinkers such as L T Hobhouse and J A Hobson. Indeed, his historical strictures apply as much to his own party as they do to the Lib Dems.

As John Maynard Keynes wrote in an article in the New Statesman in 1939: "Why cannot the leaders of the Labour Party face the fact that they are not sectaries of an outworn creed, mumbling moss-grown demi-semi Fabian Marxism, but the heirs of eternal Liberalism?"

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn bids for the NHS to rescue Labour

Ahead of tomorrow's by-elections, Corbyn damned Theresa May for putting the service in a "state of emergency".

Whenever Labour leaders are in trouble, they seek political refuge in the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn, whose party faces potential defeat in tomorrow’s Copeland and Stoke by-elections, upheld this iron law today. In the case of the former, Labour has already warned that “babies will die” as a result of the downgrading of the hospital. It is crude but it may yet prove effective (it worked for No to AV, after all).

In the chamber, Corbyn assailed May for cutting the number of hospital beds, worsening waiting times, under-funding social care and abolishing nursing bursaries. The Labour leader rose to a crescendo, damning the Prime Minister for putting the service in a “a state of emergency”. But his scattergun attack was too unfocused to much trouble May.

The Prime Minister came armed with attack lines, brandishing a quote from former health secretary Andy Burnham on cutting hospital beds and reminding Corbyn that Labour promised to spend less on the NHS at the last election (only Nixon can go to China). May was able to boast that the Tories were providing “more money” for the service (this is not, of course, the same as “enough”). Just as Corbyn echoed his predecessors, so the Prime Minister sounded like David Cameron circa 2013, declaring that she would not “take lessons” from the party that presided over the Mid-Staffs scandal and warning that Labour would “borrow and bankrupt” the economy.

It was a dubious charge from the party that has racked up ever-higher debt but a reliably potent one. Labour, however, will be satisfied that May was more comfortable debating the economy or attacking the Brown government, than she was defending the state of the NHS. In Copeland and Stoke, where Corbyn’s party has held power since 1935 and 1950, Labour must hope that the electorate are as respectful of tradition as its leader.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.