I think anyone reading this blog will know that I’m no great fan of the Liberal Democrats and wasn’t before the coalition. I’ve had to campaign against either their right flank or their spiteful and misleading campaign tactics too often.
But they do have a few policies I agree with, and while voting reform wouldn’t be top of my priority list, on balance I think it’s probably a good thing. AV is a terrible reform, and they should have got more out of the negotiations, but it’s where we are.
One thing the Lib Dems always was good at was political calculation. The coalition seems to have rather sent them out of whack.
One of the recurring tropes from Lib Dem commentators around the coalition and it’s forming was that it was their one chance to enact some of their policies – not least to get a referendum on AV. One presumes that the Lib Dems want this referendum to actually pass.
So articles like this and this actually baffle me. Don’t get me wrong; I am very used to and of course expect articles from the Lib Dems attacking Labour. Particularly since going into coalition, their hatred of Labour has intensified and without the Tories to rail against equally, Labour is now the only political target for negative attacks – a long term component of all political blogs. But attacking Labour furiously on this issue is simply counter-productive to achieving your actual aim of a successful referendum.
Let’s break it down clearly: The Tories do not want voting reform. At all. Labour are mostly committed to it (a few backbenchers have dissented, but it was in our manifesto and all our leadership candidates are signed up to at least AV). The Lib Dems are cratering in the polls, and the referendum will be a really easy time for their disaffected voters to give them a bit of a kicking. To avoid this, they will need one of the larger parties campaigning vigorously with them, and t0 make it look really “new politics” it would be great if that were the party of the opposition. Either way it won’t be the Tories.
So here’s my question to the Lib Dems, and I really, really don’t mean this in a negative fashion:
Do you want to win the referendum, or do you want to better cement coalition relations?
Because at the moment there seems to be a whole lot of attention on the latter, at obvious risk to jeopardising the former.
If you do want to pass AV, then I cannot advise you strongly enough to split the bill. It will free labour to vote for the referendum, which will in turn ensure a vigorous Labour presence in the campaign. And for all this week’s talk of “Toxic brand” we are considerably higher in the polls than we were at the election. You need us. Try to remember that before you continue to slag us off just to impress the big boys!