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  1. Politics
12 June 2015

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.

By Andrew Emmerson

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

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