Is Luciana Berger [the new Labour MP for Liverpool Wavertree] a vacuous bimbo?
My good friend and Conservative activist, Mark, took exception to my describing Luciana Berger as a vacuous bimbo (post 7 May). As perennially supporting the underdog in Liverpool politics it is decent of Mark to stick up for Luciana but not surprising that a Tory sticks up for the Labour candidate as the Tories and Labour have such similar policies (not that many of the voters or Daily Mirror seem to be troubled by little things like policies).
Ok I called Luciana a bimbo so that people would read the post. She is clearly not a bimbo but an intelligent young woman who is dedicated to her own political career and will put that and following a party line above the good of Liverpool Wavertree. Liverpool has been very badly let down by its Labour MPs, with the exceptions only of Louise Ellman and Peter Kilfoyle who have worked on behalf of local people and been ignored by the leadership of Blair and Brown. Manchester has done much better. By voting for compliant Labour MPs Liverpool Labour voters have ensured that the Labour Government could always put Liverpool as a lower priority than other areas. Mark says "I think Luciana has great potential and fail to see how it's any sort of outrage. I'd rather have her than Messrs Wareing, Parry, Loyden or Fields who failed their areas." Mark is right that the Militant Labour MPs of the 1980s did let Liverpool down far worse by embarking on a suicidal strategy of confrontation with the Government. It is also true, as I've made clear numerous times, that the Labour Government was better for Liverpool than the Conservative Government was (though appalling on civil liberties and as much in league with the tabloid press and big business).
Mark makes the point that my criticisms of Luciana are hypocritical as Lib Dems, including myself and Colin Eldridge (our candidate) have moved into the area. His facts are right but the conclusion is wrong. Let us consider. The difference is that many Labour and Conservative candidates, all their bright young careerists, are doing just that – following a career. Their graduates (and undergraduates) talk about going for a 'career in politics' it is all about what they will do for their career by following a particular set of steps (being an officer of the Labour training organisation NUS for example). None of it is about putting principles into effect but about an assumption that they should be in charge of other people. That is why both parties have been obsessed with centralised control, we will see if the Tories are better in delivering in practice (with their policies on paper mainly being better than Labour but their record e.g. against devolution) worse.
The difference with the Liberal Democrats is that no one joins the Liberal Democrats to have a career in politics or to get a safe seat so they can be a politician. These, as we have just seen despite the party gaining its highest vote ever, do not exist.
Mark gives local examples "You moved to Liverpool to be a City Cllr in your 20s as did Colin & Richard Marbrow" [former leading councillor and Parliamentary candidate]. Let me correct the facts. I was born in Liverpool and my family live in a commuter village ten miles from the city centre. I moved into the city to support regeneration of Liverpool and to get elected because that was the best way to restore Liverpool to being the great city it should still have been. Richard Marbrow moved here to take his degree and stayed. Colin Eldridge did move here to try and become an MP because the Liberal Democrats were doing well but he was not parachuted into a seat, he worked solidly to try and get elected to put Liberal principles into action. I have applied elsewhere to stand to try and get a seat the Lib Dems could win because under our unfair voting system there are very few seats that the Liberal Democrats can win so usually if you want to be elected, to put principles into action, you have to move. (Incidentally Mark has always rejected my advice to move and try his politics where he might be more successful elsewhere and has always stayed and campaigned in Merseyside).
Let us compare our new Labour MP in Wavertree with a young Lib Dem woman who moved to be an MP. I asked Jenny Willott (just re-elected as MP for Cardiff Central) when she was first applying to stand why she thought she should be an MP. Unlike the many women and ethnic minority candidates in my own party who say they should be MPs because they are a woman or a member of an ethnic minority (none of them elected) Jenny named two of my political heroes. She said she applied to stand because Chris Rennard (the Lib Dem's master strategist of the 1990s and last decade) and Conrad Russell (probably the greatest British Liberal thinker of the second half of the twentieth century) encouraged her to do so. She stood and won in Cardiff and has stuck to her principles while Labour sold out for the sake of power.
Mark with suitable unease quotes Beatrice Fraenkel (a lazy Lib Dem councillor who defected to Labour and was given a safe inner city ward), as she said when a LibDem, 'since David Alton we've failed to select a credible local who could win a Parliamentary seat.' Maybe that's correct but Labour voters have gone for self-interest and party colour over policies or record or experience. Luciana will be another Labour let down.
Postscript. A letter to the Guardian. 9 May 2010.
Labour nor Tories are progressive.
Jonathan Freedland (8 May) says the Lib Dems are so far apart from the Tories on Europe, immigration and Trident but we have the same major differences with Labour on Trident, on immigration and just slightly less so on Europe. The Conservative record on civil liberties is better, as is their talk on the environment and it was Labour who sleep walked the country into a debt fuelled financial crisis. Given Labour's Pauline conversion to electoral reform and Tory hostility, Nick Clegg would be best to let a minority government put forward policies and, like grown ups, MPs of other parties can decide to support those proposals with open debate or not. The other logical alternative is a Government of all the talents to get the country out of crisis. Who opposes a hung Parliament, minority Government and sensible negotiations? .. why the financial speculators who got us into the economic crisis in the first place.
PPS Clegg took the right risky strategy to put us up there with the other parties and go for more of their seats. The tv debates enabled this to happen. Many people in the end saw more of us and chose the other parties but Clegg did get us more votes than ever before.