How Labour’s “crushers” beat the “accommodators” and hit Clegg hard

February 18, 2014 10:30 am

Well that went well didn’t it Nick? You tried to reach out to Labour and you’ve been publicly rebuffed by the Labour leader and Labour’s election chief, told to get lost by the Shadow Cabinet office, your ludicrous plan to have no policies of note has been splashed on the front page of The Times(£) and The Sun(£) report that Labour HQ will be targeting your seat in 2015.

I think the message that Labour is sending you, Nick, is a fairly firm “No thanks” – and that’s before we even get round to the fact that a Lib/Lab coalition is highly unlikely.

But what’s telling about Labour’s reaction to Clegg’s overtures is what it shows us about the internal dynamics of the Labour Party. When Clegg has previously shown Labour a bit of ankle, the reaction from many within the party hierarchy has been to ignore the Deputy PM or make gooey eyes back at him. This time the response has been a strong, swift and unequivocal no.

cameron_clegg_back.jpg

That means the internal battle within the Labour Party between those who think the Lib Dems should be accommodated and those who think they should be crushed has been won by the crushers. And the decisive response of Miliband, Douglas Alexander and Jonathan Ashworth suggests that several key components of Labour’s campaign machine (leader’s office, strategy and attack) are all united in seeking to crush the Lib Dems.

That’s a sensible position to take. Holding down the Lib Dem vote and ensuring that as much of it as possible transfers to Labour is absolutely key in delivering a majority winning vote for Labour in 2015. Lib Dem switchers – those who thought they were voting to stop the Tories but ended up enabling a Tory government – form the bulk of Labour’s increase in vote since 2010. A strategy which sees Labour hug Clegg might be all the notice some of these voters need to begin toying with the idea of voting yellow again come 2015. Nor is targeting Lib Dem votes defeatist – on the contrary, in 86 of the 87 target seats Labour seek to win from the Tories the Lib Dem vote share last time was larger than the Tory majority. Squeezing Lib Dem votes wins Tory seats.

The reaction from the party over the past 24 hours suggests that such a strategy is now in the ascendency in Brewer’s Green, and that Douglas Alexander and others are fully signed up to it. That’s a victory for Harriet Harman and others who have been making such arguments in public in recent weeks. But it’s also a victory for common sense. Labour’s easiest route to Downing Street involves crushing the Lib Dems, not working with them.

That’s now a core part of the General Election campaign plan, not just the rhetoric. Policy, organisation and messaging will need to be calibrated accordingly.

  • Socialismo

    There’s no need and there’s no gain.

    The last thing we need is to import the acquired toxicity of the LibDems, and more importantly, nothing will reinforce the claim that the parties are all the same if there is no change come May 2015.

    • BillFrancisOConnor

      Associating ourselves with the Fib Dems would be like tethering ourselves to a corpse.

      • treborc1

        Which is what the Liberals more then likely said about Gordon Brown.

        Hell if we have another hung Government best to leave it to the Tories and the liberal anyway.

        • PaulHalsall

          I agree with this position pre-election, but post election Labour should do everything it can to avoid five years of further damage to the NHS and the social security system.

          For in-work politicos, this might be a game of chess. For someone like me, living with AIDS and some symptoms, five more years of a Tory-LibDem coalition is a matter of life and death.

          • Sidereal

            Good to see someone looking at it from the point of view of people’s needs, as opposed to scoring cheap points over the LDs. Labour should at least have a plan for coalition, unlike last time. Leaving it to Tories and LDs again is cutting off the voters’ noses to spite Labour’s face.

          • Steve Stubbs

            Changing your pre-election position after the reality of the actual election is what we are slagging Clegg for. So why do you think we should do it too?

            It’s exactly what the public hate – one position in the manifesto or pre election, and a reversal post-election. Why not state up front that we seek a majority, but if not then are prepared to enter a coalition?

          • PaulHalsall

            Because our leading politicians are now virtually all practicing habits the picked up as student politicians.

      • Doug Smith

        Labour were prepared to enter into a coalition with the LibDems as a junior partner in 2010.

        Why shouldn’t they do the same thing in 2015?

        • BillFrancisOConnor

          Have you been asleep for the last 3 and a half years?

          • Doug Smith

            So you’d rather have Labour out of office than in government with the LibDems as a junior coalition partner?

          • MikeHomfray

            No. I want a Labour majority and see no reason why we shouldn’t aim to get one

          • rekrab

            However the aim is targeted at who can do austerity the best, Balls and Osborne both want a surplus budget, you couldn’t slip a fag paper in-between, so the lib/dem and UKIP will be left with the other big issue the EU. Next week’s rushed articles? why the EU counts. It’s like a badly write film script that you can write yourself before the frame is shot.

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            No I want an outright Labour victory.

          • Doug Smith

            I understand that.

            But if Labour didn’t achieve an outright victory, and the LibDems held the balance of power, which of the two main parties (Labour and Tory) would you like to see forming a government with the LibDems as a junior partner?

          • keggsie

            Another election. Not a coalition of any sort.

          • Doug Smith

            Can’t see Labour or the Tories going for that. The biggest party would opt for government with LibDem support rather than risk defeat in another election.

            There’s not a great deal of policy difference between the three though no doubt there’ll be a good dose of hand-wringing theatrics. And they finally announce the decision to form a coalition they’ll declare it is “in the national interest”.

          • keggsie

            I agree with you but this coalition was not elected but cobbled together. I do NOT want a cobbled together Lib / Lab coalition. If the 2 parties want to do so even in the national interest they should go back to the electorate and stand on a joint ticket. Nothing less will satisfy me and I say that as a Labour Party member.

        • rekrab

          Where’s the hidden agenda in all these lib/dem bashing talk?
          Why would a failing party garnish so much attention from labour?
          Speak down the Clegg party while hoping there is revival in the other ranks because the more UKIP votes there are the more the labour vote goes down.

          Mirrors and smoke! they’ll jump at the chance to form a coalition with the lib/dems and Clegg will stand aside.

          • Doug Smith

            I agree entirely.

            It looks better if accommodation is preceded by ‘talking-tough’ and, of course, ‘talking tough’ helps keep the troops motivated.
            But a political party hoping to form a government must prepare for every eventuality.

            You can be sure that informal, preparatory approaches will already have taken place.

    • RAnjeh

      Labour isn’t going to take Sheffield Hallam. It is a ridiculous idea!

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  • John Ruddy

    I’ve long said theres a difference between cosying up to the Lib Dems, and doing so to the Lib Dem voters.

    We need the latter, but not the former.

  • EricBC

    Clegg may benefit more from Labour rejection than acceptance, seeing that he is pitching for Tory votes. He ain’t stoopid.

    • reformist lickspittle

      Hmmm, that is open to debate after the events of the last few years ;)

      • Sidereal

        He’s in the government, unlike Labour.

        • reformist lickspittle

          Yes, and……??

    • Northerner1001

      Clegg is desperate & the public can see right through him,he’s a busted flush,i campaign in a tory held marginal & the Lib Dems are absolutely hated on the doorstep,i’ve never heard such vitriol as I have witnessed people talking about Clegg & that’s from people who voted for him in 2010

  • Ash McGregor

    A sensible position would have been to be pro-recall and to ignore Clegg. We could have had a ‘One Nation’ trust the voters line instead of looking self-interested…

  • Northerner1001

    Any hint of a pact pre election between Labour & the LibDems will damage Labour so steer well clear of these yellow tories! LibDems think time is a healer but with only just over 1 year left before the GE,even the pollster that favours them the most,ICM,has them down to 10%,they are paying the price for propping up one of the most right wing tory govt’s ever,i hope they’re smashed in 2015!

  • althejazz

    It also won’t help our case if Ed Milband continues to compare himself with thatcher. The general public now know she was a devious and unprincipled liar and to try and use her name to help the Labour party will result in lost votes. Tell it like it is – thatcher was a disaster for ordinary working people in the same way that cameron and clegg are now.

    • reformist lickspittle

      Maybe you should go on what he actually says.

      Rather than self-interested media spin.

  • keggsie

    What amazes me is Clegg still thinks he will be an MP in 2015 never mind leader of his spineless, quisling party.

  • robertcp

    I think that Mark is missing the point that Labour will need Lib Dem voters to vote tactically for Labour in Lab-Con marginals. Will an excessively hostile attitude towards the Lib Dems help Labour to get those votes?
    Regarding a Lab-Lib coalition, does saying that this will be an option in a hung parliament contradict aiming for a Labour majority? My view is that a more pluralist approach is in line with the One Nation slogan.

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