David Blackburn

Laws on the formation of the coalition: Labour were simply too divided

Laws on the formation of the coalition: Labour were simply too divided
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David Laws has responded to Andrew Adonis’ partisan review (no link apparently) of 22 Days in May. Laws’ account of the formation of the coalition and its infancy in government. Laws denies Adonis’ charge that the Lib Dems had a ‘right-wing agenda’ and, to prove the point, drops a wonderful quotation from Peter Mandelson during a discussion on tax, saying: ‘Haven’t the rich suffered enough already.’ Rather, Laws’ argues that the coalition formed as it did because Labour were simply too divided to be credible. He writes:

‘Labour was too disorganised or divided even to table clear positions on tax, education spending, pensions or the deficit. And, on voting reform, Ed Balls was bluntly warning us that Labour MPs might not vote for their own manifesto pledge to support a referendum on the Alternative Vote.’

Therein lies Ed Miliband’s problem: the party’s backroom squabbles have broken into daylight. The leader and his shadow chancellor disagree on tax policy and higher education; the Keynsian purists are colliding with those wedded to the Darling doctrine. Blairite pro-market reformers whisper their dissent against those who still seek a Brownite solution through the state. Then there are those who see sense in David Cameron’s Big Society; indeed, fear it’s an appropriation of the left's traditional territory.

Public divisions are problematic because they always call the leadership into question. Miliband has potentially blundered in appointing Labour politicians to lead each aspect of the party’s policy review, without first having given voters a clear indication of himself and what he stands for – even posing with a husky might have given his politics some definition.