Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

I left the Lib Dems and so should others

No self-respecting progressive should get into bed with a party that propped up David Cameron and George Osborne for five years, writes Alex Warnakulasuriya

I joined the Liberal Democrats in October 2016. I joined Tim Farron’s #libdemfightback (ugh) seeking refuge from the maelstrom engulfing the Labour party. I saw their resurgence in the polls as an opportunity to help realign politics towards the centre-left, and build a credible opposition to Theresa May’s wailing car crash out of the single market.

I found a troop of individuals with good intentions and one policy: Stop Brexit. A group with nothing concrete to offer in terms of National Health Service investment, nothing for our schools, and no interest in bringing down the cost of energy or transport. I found a party of people suffocating under the blanket of ideological purity, with neither policy that will improve the lives of our fellow countrymen nor a strategy for securing power.

Remind you of anyone?

Stopping Brexit altogether may well resonate with certain sections of society, but no single-issue party – regardless of whether it is led by Tim Farron or Paul Nuttall – can deliver the kind of social democratic change that Britain so desperately needs. There is even talk of the Liberal Democrats entering into another unholy alliance with the Conservative party after the election. This all despite Theresa May being hell-bent on rolling up the drawbridge and taking our country out of the world’s biggest free trade zone.

The idea that any self-respecting progressive can conscionably get into bed with the party of hard Brexit is a total farce. Were he made deputy prime minister in such an event, Farron would not achieve soft Brexit while rubbing shoulders on the green benches with the likes of Liam Fox and David Davis. Instead, the Liberal Democrats would again be party to more tax cuts for the wealthy, budget cuts for councils, rising homelessness and increases in child poverty and inequality. There is nothing progressive about that.

It falls to Labour’s moderates to fight for the party’s future. It is paramount that Labour activists are out on the doorstep, working hard to defend Labour MPs who, by no fault of their own, have had their future endangered. If the polls are correct – and we should hope they are, given they overstated Labour’s position last time – Labour faces real danger on all sides. But if we work hard, we can begin about setting the party back onto the road to government again; delivering policies that will improve people’s lives, as the last improved them before.

First, Labour must survive. That means that progressives must ignore the siren calls of the Liberal Democrats and fight for every candidate, alongside every faction of the Labour party. We have to plant trees that we may never see, but above all, we have to try. We cannot seek refuge in other houses.

On the day Theresa May called the general election, I left the Liberal Democrats, because I believe that only a Labour government committed to an outward-looking Britain can deliver the change that our country needs. You should too.


Alex Warnakulasuriya is a Labour party member and financial journalist. He tweets at @AlexWarna



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Alex Warnakulasuriya

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