Paddy Ashdown tells Total Politics:
"There is a really big issue that needs to be addressed by the left, which is how do we now put together a sensible force of those who are the modern progressives?
"The left is a sort of smoking battlefield. I think we are facing the short term prospect of a government unconstrained by an effective opposition which is very bad for the country - and bad for the Tories too. And we’re facing in the long term the question I faced in 1992, which was are we looking at the Tories forever?"A smoking battlefield it is, but it seems to me that the situation we face is more like 1983 than 1992.
By 1992 Labour had lost four consecutive general elections and had finally grasped that they were going to have to change if they were to win again.
That is not where Labour is today. We are now in a strange alternative 1983 where they have just elected Michael Foot rather than just got rid of him.
Paddy also suggests that the European referendum may be key in bringing about some sort of realignment of anti-Conservative forces:
"I think this begins with a conversation about ideas. My guess is that if you’ve got sensible modern progressives in all the political parties in the room, and you started a day’s conference, debate, conversation, you would end up with five key points that you can very easily agree with.
"So I think that’s the way it begins. I think it begins on an informal basis. I think it begins around ideas, not structures. I think it begins with conversations. I think it can then develop, probably through the medium of the referendum, and it’s after the referendum that you begin to address the issue of how do we give this political force."He is right to call for conversations across party lines and it may be that the European referendum will encourage them. But that takes us right back to 1975.
Karl Marx adds: "Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."