Interviewed by Jon Sopel for today's Politics Show the former Labour Foreign Secretary, and co-founder of the SDP, was very warm about Ed Miliband and the changes he is making to the Labour Party. He said that he was open to voting and possibly even joining Labour again. 'Even at the age of 72 you can flirt' was Sopel's conclusion. Of the Labour leader David owen said:
"He knows that I’m going to look very hard at what he does with the Labour party. I think he's started extremely well. He's claimed back the ground of civil liberties which Tony Blair lost with the Labour Party and many good decisions… I think he made some very sensible shadow cabinet decisions and I think he has rooted the party by his choice of Shadow Chancellor – a trade unionist, a decent man.”
It was earlier this week that Rachel Sylvester commented upon (£) Ed Miliband's outreach to the founders of the SDP. At a time when Cameron and Clegg are constructing their big tent the Labour leader is clearly attempting to lead what he described yesterday as Britain's progressive majority. The fact that he is fishing in yesteryear's SDP pond does underline, however, Labour's lack of success at encouraging high profile defectors from the Liberal Democrats.
I am quite surprised we haven't seen a single Lib Dem MP defect to Labour or even stand as an independent (as a good number have done in local government). Lib Dems on the Left have actually been very critical of Labour's attemts at outreach. Gang of Four member Bill Rodgers has actually warned Labour of patronising behaviour towards the Lib Dems. Things might change, of course, but the solidarity within Lib Dem ranks must be of real comfort to Nick Clegg. If a Lib/Lab coalition emerges in Scotland after May's Holyrood election I suspect that will actually help party unity – reinforcing the Clegg claim that the Lib/Tory Coalition in Westminster is a purely business relationship, not a marriage.