Tuesday, March 09, 2010

John Kampfner comes out for the Liberal Democrats

Former New Statesman editor John Kampfner has come out in support of the Liberal Democrats in a new CentreForum pamphlet and in an article for the Guardian.

The pamphlet Lost Labour: Where now for the liberal Left? is being launched today by Kampfner and Nick Clegg. It can be downloaded from the CentreForum website.

In the Guardian Kampfner says:
For many Labour supporters, the single most important reason for their party to stay in power is to keep the Tories out. Yet people can only for so long be exhorted to hold their nose, to vote for a party they feel has let them down, simply because the alternative is worse. It is deeply damaging to politics to resort perpetually to the double negative.

There is a bigger task facing left-liberals. The election should be used as a means of promoting a more pluralist politics. Whichever party forms a government will do so knowing that it has a wafer-thin endorsement and a weak mandate in the midst of economic hardship and the widespread disparaging of parliament. Politics is more fragile and fluid.

This is the opportunity facing the Liberal Democrats. They could become the natural home for the left-liberals that Labour has lost. The more the other two parties rely on caution, the more the Lib Dems must eschew it. Rarely have the circumstances been more propitious for a party to demonstrate that, in its policies and in its behaviour, it is very different from the others on offer – and not afraid to say so.
It is very encouraging to see someone like Kampfner coming out is support of the party. Citing Robin Cook as his political hero, he represents exactly the strand of Labour thinking - that which values liberties and appreciates that there is more to life than economics - we should be seeking to win over.

Incidentally, it would have been a good idea for CentreForum to tip off sympathetic bloggers that this was coming up. I used to hear from them occasionally, but it only ever seemed to be in connection with pamphlets calling for cooperation with other parties. Given the need for thinking in this party, as I said at the time, that is the last thing a Liberal Democrat think-tank should be worrying about.

CentreForum has sometimes, perhaps because of its independent funding, seemed rather a distant body. So when it has good stuff like this it should encourage its fellow Liberal Democrats to write about it.