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Influential Lib Dem calls for closer links with Labour

Tuition fees betrayal should make grass-roots members “sit up and think”, says former policy directo

In today's Observer, Richard Grayson, a former Liberal Democrat director of policy, reveals the deep anger among the party's grass roots over the coalition's higher education reforms. He argues that it points to a split between the party's centre right, which now dominates the Lib Dem leadership, and the centre left:

Those on the right generally favour privatised and marketised policies. On the left, we really do take the view that we are all in it together. We seek democratic and localised policies and yes, we do generally favour higher spending and more redistribution.

Grayson asserts that most Lib Dems have "more in common with members of the Labour Party and the Greens than we do with our own leadership". He also singles out Ed Miliband for praise in particular, arguing that his support for AV and his stated commitment to pluralism suggest he is a Labour leader who shares many Lib Dem "values".

He suggests that Lib Dem members, including MPs, should begin to work with Labour on areas of policy and even draw up joint amendments to legislation.

The intervention comes as a new poll commissioned by the Conservative deputy chairman Michael Ashcroft suggests that up to half of Lib Dem voters could desert the party at the next general election.