Dead Men Left

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"Give PM a bloody nose" but try to avoid punching yourself in the face

Brian Sedgemore, a left-wing former Labour MP, has pulled off a very neat publicity stunt on his retirement from Parliament.

The 68-year-old said: "The idea and practice of Britain as a liberal country has always been under threat but it has taken a Labour Prime Minister to secure its demise.

"For Tony Blair, his scorn for liberal Britain is surprising for one who has an expensive liberal education and he entered politics as an aspirant liberal lawyer, an ardent member of CND and a standard-bearer for the left."

The former Hackney South and Shoreditch MP, speaking at a Liberal Democrat press conference, said he was joining the party to "work for a nobler vision of Britain".

Heaven help us if anyone takes this as sealing the Lib Dem's credentials as a party of the left. Notice the "liberal", "liberal", "liberal" refrain in Sedgemore's quote. The word is currently used to both excuse imperialism, and disguise socialists. It is largely meaningless, which means it does little more than maintain the status quo - something the Liberal Democrats are very keen on, give or take PR, but something I always thought Sedgemore was dead set against.

If he was simply asking people to hold their own noses, and vote for opportunism to punish Blair for Iraq, his defection would be more understandable. But he appears to believe the Lib Dems hold a "nobler vision of Britain": one with strikes banned, one with the NHS broken up, one with civil liberties undefended - perhaps even one in alliance with the Tories. Far better if Sedgemore had not squandered much of his credibility on this pack of jokers, and made the bolder step towards a genuine, left-wing alternative to the New Labour he evidently despises.