Monday, 2 May 2011

Bad arguments from Lib Dems

John Kampfner has a bad article in The Grauniad. I say bad, because it contains a few questionable arguments. Some examples:
Labour tribalists think they have never had it so good. By Friday, according to their reckoning, hundreds of council seats will have returned to the fold, the AV referendum will have been lost and their public enemy number one, Nick Clegg, will have been humiliated.
Why is it that for may meejah types only Labour has 'tribalists'? The implication is that Labour supporters aren't being 'progressives' if they, you know, try and win seats off the Lib Dems. Presumably al those Lib Dems activists who spent years trying to win council seats, by-elections etc were just seeking to further the Progressive Majority (peace be upon it). But dastardly Labour 'tribalists' didn't simply roll over. Nick Clegg trying to win an election is celebrated as The Liberal Moment, Ed Miliband trying to do the same is tribalism.

As for how to read the polls and election results:
The better Labour performs in these interim indicators, the more reluctant it will be to ask itself the hard questions necessary to return to power.
So doing very well could be dangerous for Labour. Ok. But hang on:
The polls are solid for Labour but, in the midst of a deep recession, it should surely be well ahead.
So not doing very well is bad for Labour too.

But what about the logic of this comment on Labour's polling too. Leave aside the fact that we are not technically in a recession, deep or otherwise. Labour IS routinely ahead in the polls. But why should we be well ahead? In the confused message sent by the electorate last May one thing was clear - they wanted a break from Labour after 12 years, and we got spanked. In what world does it make sense to argue that having just been chucked out after a decade in power Labour should expect to be 'well ahead', especially when many punters see Labour as having mucked up the economy? Sometimes I'm amazed we're still standing.

And how about this:
The more Labour focuses its wrath on the wrong target, the more it will embed a Conservative government.
The logic is all over the place. There is wrath towards the Lib Dems because they put the Tories in power - it was a response to it - but now the response to the action is reframed as causing it. And of course one of the reasons there is so much wrath towards the Lib Dems is because over recent years they have tried to win seats off Labour by pretending to be further to the Left, only to then ally with the Tories to get into power. In any case, it's not as if we are only standing candidates against the Lib Dems is it?

All that said clearly at some point, as Kampfner says, Labour does need to talk to the Lib Dems again, and focus most fire on the Tories. But we can wait until they have indulged in an orgy of tribalism by, you know, trying to win council seats off Labour, and when they've made their minds up where they want to sit on the Left-Right spectrum. Cos at the moment it isn't obvious.

1 comment:

Andrew Curry said...

What I like about the phrase 'Labour tribalists' is that it is so quintessentially New Labour: it describes - pejoratively - people who were unwilling to subscribe to all of that 'Third Way' rhetoric. Objectively it is possible to argue that Labour's demographic base is shrinking - though not as quickly as that of the Conservatives - but the thought that in the wake of the financial crisis and huge public spending cuts people might just find some traditional Labour perspectives attractive seems to escape commentators. Perhaps they don't read opinion polls. Or maybe they spend too much time in London.