Traitors. Opportunists. Power-hungry, self-obsessed egotists. All claims that have been levelled at the new Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and his party the Liberal Democrats. All claims that have reflected deep divides within British politics; between the right wing and those who oppose the new government. Whilst many have welcomed the move to national government, others have seen it as a situation bound to end in tragedy.
However, this coalition does not necessarily need to be seen as bad thing. In fact for the Labour party this coalition could act as the stimulus needed to regenerate the party and move towards a new era of dominance once the novelty of Cameronite government wears off. Whilst Labour supporters should, rightly, be dismayed at their defeat at this election, the defeat gives the party the chance to reflect on the reasons why the recent election was lost and what the future holds for the party.
With a new leader yet to be chosen to lead the party, Labour must now realise it is at a crossroads. Continuation will only lead to further failures that would devastate the party’s long-term future. A continuation with New Labour cannot be an option. Cameron’s government, through the adoption of sections of the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto, has made a bold move towards the centre of the political spectrum that Labour would be wise to avoid challenging them for. For a party that has proudly promoted its working class routes throughout its existence, a shift to the left could provide an all important contrast with Cameron’s coalition.
It can be left in no doubt that to promote candidates such as David Miliband and Ed Balls to lead the party would be a disaster. They offer little in the way of new ideas and would be viewed as a continuation of Blair and Brown’s policies; policies that have been emphatically rejected by the electorate. Whichever way you look at the election, it was not the decision by Clegg to join Cameron in government that lost Labour the election. It was Labour’s own failings and its own insecurity on what direction the party should take. A move further left could invigorate the party and help it recover from May 6th.
When the party decides who its new leader should be, it should remember why the party was first created. To stand up in support for those in society who have nobody to defend them. For those who have no voice in establishment politics. It should remember the daring of Atlee’s government and remember how it followed on from years of Conservative dominated national government. It should use the opportunity given by Cameron and Clegg to reconnect with the people and provide a new programme of reforms to advance the nation. It should abandon any pretence that this naturally left-leaning party is a party of the centre-right and adopt the spirit of Attlee’s great reforming government. If it does not, its exile from power may be more than a short-term situation.