Labour MP Jamie Reed, pictured earlier today. Photo: Getty Images
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A merger between Labour and the Liberal Democrats could never work, and here's why

Jamie Reed's proposal that Labour merge with the Liberal Democrats is simply a ruse so Labour can finish what they tried to do at the election: wipe out the Liberal Democrats.

There have been a few articles recently mooting the merger of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, including this one published by the Labour MP Jamie Reed. It is written as an act of kindness to both parties, somehow uniting of the mythical forces of progressivism for the greater good. Lib Dems should not be taken in by this, Reed is a wolf in sheep’s clothing asking us into the flock. The differences between our two parties are irreconcilable, and it would signal the end of liberalism.

Lib Dems should not be fooled by progressive overtures; we should make no mistake after watching the last five years that Labour sees us as a pesky annoyance. They tried their best at the general election to make sure we were no longer a party, they didn’t quite succeed. For years they treated us like a spurned ex with a victim complex; they bombarded us with messages calling us traitors, liars, backstabbers and every so often they threw in a “come home” message, but it was never sincere, if it had been they would have made a real effort to change on areas that mattered to liberals. 

The truth is Labour simply don’t get us and have never made an effort to do so, they’re too consumed in small c conservatism to understand our reforming zeal. When we wanted to change the voting system, to reform the House of Lords, they stood squarely against us and hurled abuse. We wanted to protect people from arbitrary government and make civil liberties red lines in coalition; they appointed Yvette Cooper as shadow home secretary, not exactly known for her liberal credentials. When our ideal was take the poorest people out of tax while aiming for a living wage, Labour wanted introduce a 10p tax rate for the poorest.

Even in practical terms, we are a party that has a strong internal democracy; we make our own policy at conference, something that is now alien to Labour. There’d also be a huge problem with campaigning. In the safe seat of South Shields, David Miliband had a contact rate of less than 100 people in his constituency, whilst Lib Dems are out campaigning all year around in held seats. Reed talks about learning the lessons in Scotland, but in many Lib Dems-held seats we increased our raw vote only to be taken out by the tsunami of Labour voters who’d crossed the floor to the SNP. We have lessons to learn, but they are not the same as Labour’s.

If Labour wants to learn those lessons they should do it without us. We are incompatible, and we could never co-exist on a permanent basis. From their treatment of us, to basic philosophical differences, to the practicalities – it just wouldn’t work. However, I don’t suppose it is meant to, it is meant to gobble us up, finish us off and allow Labour a much clearer path to victory

Andrew Emmerson is a Liberal Democrat activist and Liberal Youth Non-Portfolio Officer

Photo: Getty
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The Future of the Left: trade unions are more important than ever

Trade unions are under threat - and without them, the left has no future. 

Not accepting what you're given, when what you're given isn't enough, is the heart of trade unionism.

Workers having the means to change their lot - by standing together and organising is bread and butter for the labour movement - and the most important part? That 'lightbulb moment' when a group of workers realise they don't have to accept the injustice of their situation and that they have the means to change it.

That's what happened when a group of low-paid hospital workers organised a demonstration outside their hospital last week. As more of their colleagues clocked out and joined them on their picket, thart lightbulb went on.

When they stood together, proudly waving their union flags, singing a rhythmic chant and raising their homemade placards demanding a living wage they knew they had organised the collective strength needed to win.

The GMB union members, predominantly BAME women, work for Aramark, an American multinational outsourcing provider. They are hostesses and domestics in the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, a mental health trust with sites across south London.

Like the nurses and doctors, they work around vulnerable patients and are subject to verbal and in some cases physical abuse. Unlike the nurses and doctors their pay is determined by the private contractor that employs them - for many of these staff that means statutory sick pay, statutory annual leave entitlement and as little as £7.38 per hour.

This is little more than George Osborne's new 'Living Wage' of £7.20 per hour as of April.

But these workers aren't fighting for a living wage set by government or even the Living Wage Foundation - they are fighting for a genuine living wage. The GMB union and Class think tank have calculated that a genuine living wage of £10ph an hour as part of a full time contract removes the need for in work benefits.

As the TUC launches its 'Heart Unions' week of action against the trade union bill today, the Aramark workers will be receiving ballot papers to vote on whether or not they want to strike to win their demands.

These workers are showing exactly why we need to 'Heart Unions' more than ever, because it is the labour movement and workers like these that need to start setting the terms of the real living wage debate. It is campaigns like this, low-paid, in some cases precariously employed and often women workers using their collective strength to make demands on their employer with a strategy for winning those demands that will begin to deliver a genuine living wage.

It is also workers like these that the Trade Union Bill seeks to silence. In many ways it may succeed, but in many other ways workers can still win.

Osborne wants workers to accept what they're given - a living wage on his terms. He wants to stop the women working for Aramark from setting an example to other workers about what can be achieved.

There is no doubting that achieving higher ballot turn outs, restrictions on picket lines and most worryingly the use of agency workers to cover strikers work will make campaigns like these harder. But I refuse to accept they are insurmountable, or that good, solid organisation of working people doesn't have the ability to prevail over even the most authoritarian of legislation.

As the TUC launch their Heart Unions week of action against the bill these women are showing us how the labour movement can reclaim the demands for a genuine living wage. They also send a message to all working people, the message that the Tories fear the most, that collective action can still win and that attempts to silence workers can still be defeated.