Capitalising on last week’s bloody vote on tuition fees – which sparked the worst rebellion in the party’s history – Miliband said some Lib Dem MPs “fear their deal with the Tories is shifting the gravity of British politics to the right”.
He said he was issuing his plea to those “that are reluctant to abandon ship but are concerned at the direction of their party”.
“I invite them to work with us on issues of common interest,” he added.
But Miliband’s overtures received short shrift from Tim Farron, the Lib Dem president-elect who voted against the coalition on tuition fees and who is seen as a left-wing standard-bearer for disgruntled colleagues.
He said: “Why would any sane progressive give Labour a second glance? As part of the coalition, Lib Dems have started fixing Labour’s economic mess, taking millions out of income tax and reforming British politics. Things Labour had 13 years to do but failed to deliver.”
In the words of one senior Lib Dem strategist, the party has been left “bruised not broken” by last week’s vote on university fees, which saw over half the party rebel against plans to triple the upper fees limit to £9,000.