Tuesday, May 20, 2008

LibDems will definitely ally with Conservatives in a Hung Parliament

The Telegraph has a piece about the LibDems deciding to ally with the Conservatives, which confirms an earlier piece in the FT in February that they were considering doing this. According to the Telegraph:

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, will support David Cameron if the Conservatives are the largest party in a hung Parliament.
In consultations with senior members of the party, he said he was prepared to take the necessary steps that would enable the Tories to form a minority administration.

..........Before now, it had been thought likely that Mr Clegg would wait until after an election to embark on negotiations with both of the main parties in the event of a hung Parliament.

But The Daily Telegraph understands that he has decided that the public would not forgive him if he propped up a Labour administration that they had voted to throw out.

Of course Clegg leaves out of his calculation that many of the seats the LibDems hold are by virtue of Labour voters voting tactically to keep the Tories out. He seems to think that people vote LibDem because they are LibDem fans.

There are 63 Liberal Democrat MPs in parliament, and they won their seats in 2005, under Charlie Kennedy, who was palpably left-of-centre and indeed promised such things as a 50% top rate of tax (attracting many old labour voters in the process) and an anti-Iraq stance. If these Labour voters vote LibDem in the next election simply to deny the Tories a majority,and then find that their LibDem MP has crawled into bed with those same Conservatives, they would be horrified especially as Cameron and co were more gung-ho about Iraq than most Labour MPs and he is certainly not interested in progressive taxation as his recent comments attest.

So what should Labour do about this? The current position is a legacy of the 1980's, when the Labour party destructively split into Labour and the SDP. Many voters opted for the SDP/Alliance because they didn't like the Tories but were afraid of the way the hard-left seemed to be taking over the Labour party in the absence of the moderates, who had gone SDP. By 1997 however, Millitant and Michael Foot were decisively vanquished. There was no reason for Labour voters to have to continue voting LibDem in certain parts of the country - except expedience. In the run-up to 1997, New Labour didn't want to spend time re-claiming these areas when they needed to concentrate their fire-power on Labour-Tory marginals. So Blair famously wooed Ashdown, so that Labour voters felt comfortable voting LibDem in places like the south-west "to keep the Tories out".

But what on earth is the point of Labour voters going LibDem if it results a conservative government? No point at all.

The first thing Labour should do is publicise this new alliance between the Tories and LibDems. Many people are unaware of it, and still assume that the LibDems are to the left of Labour. The next thing we need to do is start re-claiming our lost territory. The next election is a straight up fight between Labour and the Conservatives. The LibDem vote is the softest of the three parties and should be squeezed. The only question is who gets those votes. We must make it clear that a vote for the LibDems is a vote for the Conservatives, who are Thatcherites maskerading as "compassionate conservatives" in the manner pioneered by George Dubya Bush.

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