What do you make of the policy statement from the MPs who have quit Labour?

The Independent Group podium - photo via Ross Kempsell on Twitter

The newly formed Independent Group of seven (now eight) Labour MPs* has the following as their launch policy statement.

Although it lacks some obvious items a Liberal Democrat policy statement would include, overall it looks at first blush to be far from incompatible with what Liberal Democrats support, and hence helps explain the warm Lib Dem reaction to their creation.

What do you make of it?

We believe:

  • Ours is a great country of which people are rightly proud, where the first duty of government must be to defend its people and do whatever it takes to safeguard Britain’s national security.
  • Britain works best as a diverse, mixed social market economy, in which well-regulated private enterprise can reward aspiration and drive economic progress and where government has the responsibility to ensure the sound stewardship of taxpayer’s money and a stable, fair and balanced economy.
  • A strong economy means we can invest in our public services. We believe the collective provision of public services and the NHS can be delivered through government action, improving health and educational life chances, protecting the public, safeguarding the vulnerable, ensuring dignity at every stage of life and placing individuals at the heart of decision-making.
  • The people of this country have the ability to create fairer, more prosperous communities for present and future generations. We believe that this creativity is best realised in a society which fosters individual freedom and supports all families.
  • The barriers of poverty, prejudice and discrimination facing individuals should be removed and advancement occur on the basis of merit, with inequalities reduced through the extension of opportunity, giving individuals the skills and means to open new doors and fulfil their ambitions.
  • Individuals are capable of taking responsibility if opportunities are offered to them, everybody can and should make a contribution to society and that contribution should be recognised. Paid work should be secure and pay should be fair.
  • Our free media, the rule of law, and our open, tolerant and respectful democratic society should be cherished and renewed.
  • We believe that our parliamentary democracy in which our elected representatives deliberate, decide and provide leadership, held accountable by their whole electorate is the best system of representing the views of the British people.
  • In order to face the challenges and opportunities presented by globalisation, migration and technological advances, we believe the multilateral, international rules-based order must be strengthened and reformed. We believe in maintaining strong alliances with our closest European and international allies on trade, regulation, defence, security and counter-terrorism
  • As part of the global community we have a responsibility to future generations to protect our environment,safeguard the planet, plan development sustainably and to act on the urgency of climate change.
  • Power should be devolved to the most appropriate level, trusting and involving local communities. More powers and representation should be given to local government to act in the best interests of their communities.

* Luciana Berger, Anne Coffey, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith and Chuka Umunna.

13 responses to “What do you make of the policy statement from the MPs who have quit Labour?”

  1. Missing electoral reform, and notably civil liberties, and the environment is low on the list, but otherwise a pretty good summation of LibDem values. They almost say that no-one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity…

  2. exactly, Nigel. But before someone naively says ‘why don’t they join the LibDems’ we should realise that we have too much baggage heaped upon us by an unfriendly press.
    To succeed they need to establish as a separate force, which will be able to work with us, and others. As independents, having taken this bold step, they will now be able to attract other MPs from Labour and, hopefully Tories too, where we have been unable.
    As Paddy would have said ‘interesting times..’

    • It might help us throw off that baggage if we gave the media something else to focus on and pushed our own policy statements more. Aside from Brexit the ordinary punter could be forgiven for not knowing what we are for these days. Mark Pack of course has his wonderful infograms (forgive me Mark if that isn’t the correct word). I was chatting with an ex PPC of ours today who made the same point, saying that he still uses the Freedom, Fairness, Green and International mantra he has used for the past decade and a half, and still gains traction in schools and on the doorstep. My doorstep summary is to say we are there to give everyone a voice, to champion the powerless over the powerful, and the words of the preamble. But we don’t seem able to articulate a coherent and consistent message nationally. Demand Better is a good rallying call but is ultimately meaningless.

  3. The easy bit is coming up with a “motherhood and apple pie” statement of values. The difficult thing is translating that into specific policies and indeed electoral success.

    The SDP reached I believe 50% in the polls but fell away when it started getting specific policies and of course discovered the difficulty of actually winning parliamentary seats in our system. With only about I believe one of the just under 30 Labour defectors retaining their seats in the 83 election.

    Much will be written by commentators about the lessons from the SDP. As usual most will be wrong but it does show the massive difficulties that ultimately beset new parties in the British FPTP system.

    • I think that the failure of SDP MPs to hold their seats was due to more than just FPTP. As a founder member of the SDP (one of those who joined within the first year), I really did not know much about campaigning until I started working with the local Liberals (and it took me nine years, including twice standing as a target ward candidate in all-up elections before I was first elected in a by-election). Those SDP members around me, even the ones who had previously been Labour Party members, were not much more experienced in campaigning. I don’t remember even knowing that the Greaves and Lishman booklet “Community Politics” existed until far later, but it is very noticeable that almost all the 1983 gains were Liberal Party gains.

      • Yes it is a good point. FPTP is a shorthand for quite a multitude of problems you face in our system. The whole infrastructure of a party apparatus including party election databases, training activists, roots and helpers within constituencies, trade union help etc. Certainly in the ’80s and I suspect now most Labour and Tory MPs may well be doing little local campaigning especially if they are in safe-ish Tory or Labour seats. And even if they don’t think they are their activists (if they switch) in safe seats unless they have picked something up from local competing parties will probably be fairly clueless as in safe seats they could just coast along and as a MP not from Tory or Labour you need a massive campaign to say who you are and what you stand for. And of course activists new to politics as with anything do have a lot to learn even if they don’t think they do! And the Liberals in the ’70s developed local campaigning and the Lib Dems have since built on that. Any Lib Dem held or target seat know they have to do a mountain of work. And Labour and the Tories do have a reasonably sizeable “core” vote – even now. Unless the new party if it becomes one gets above 30% nationally (and that will be difficult) I predict that 80% of defecting MPs won’t be re-elected.

    • Apologies! I could only think of David Owen! I normally double check.
      Wikipedia reports 6 SDP MPs returned at the 1983 election
      3 were defecting Labour MPs re-elected for the same constituency:
      Bob MacClennan, John Cartwright, and David Owen.
      There was 1 re-elected for a different constituency:
      Ian Wrigglesworth (by 102 votes) – Stockton South was a new seat although it did contain, I believe some of the same area to his previous constituency of Thornaby.
      1 was a by-election gain that we kept:
      Roy Jenkins
      And as you say 1 was a gain by Charles Kennedy.
      The substantive point remains that nearly 90% of the Labour MPs who defected (28 plus 1 Tory) lost their seat at the subsequent general election

  4. 1. Don’t spend too much time thinking about SDP, times have changed, the generations have moved on and we now have social media. The big thing to remember is that our ‘free’ press are even more defensive of the two-party state than they were back then, and they provide all the publicity the two old parties need. Our tack when referring to them should be to expose that they are both internal coalitions claiming to be a ‘broad church’ why else do they need whips and skulduggery to try to keep MPs in line.
    2. Chuka was as clear as could be, without saying the actual words, that they support electoral reform. Probably very wisely, as had he done, so the press pack would have focused on that and it would have become the main story.

  5. Acceptable enough but not inspiring aims. It is no answer for the inequality of our country to seek extension of opportunity – even the Tories support that. There is no depth here, just a sense of putting together things the seven of them can agree on. For depth and reach, the voters should look to the Liberal Democrats.

  6. I think more significant than its compatibility with the Lib Dems is the policy statement’s appeal to potential defectors from the Conservatives. It would not surprise me if was actually drafted in consultation with those potential Tory defectors as well as probably senior Lib Dem people, although I suspect that the latter were less influential than the Tories involved.

  7. I notice that you say representative democracy is important – but are silent about PR. Which means if they think they can win seats without that commitment, they will fail to gain the support of Liberal Democrats or Greens.

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