Eyes On The Prize

Number 10 and Number 11?

What is the Guardian thinking? In their endorsement of the Liberal Democrats over Labour, in many ways the paper is true to previous form – it supported Lloyd George and supported the SDP – but in its reasoning it seems wildly wrong-headed. In an election campaign that will define the very shape of the delivery mechanisms of progressive politics for the next generation, is electoral reform really the most important factor in making the decision about who to vote for? It is important and necessary, to be sure, but consigning help to the poor to an also-ran paragraph near the end of the editorial, in favour of a great paen to the wonders of PR, seems absurd.

It does, though, add another plaintive note for Labour to the mood music as we go into the final weak of campaigning. The momentum is shifting to the Conservatives, who receive the endorsement of The Times this morning. Neither of the latest polls put Cameron’s party in overall majority territory, but as the Telegraph’s Ben Brogan reports from Tory HQ, there is a renewed optimism amongst their number. In Thursday night’s debate, Cameron avoided direct answers in favour of clear messaging – time and again, he returned to core principles and strong beliefs. These were at times more right-wing than we’ve been used to – benefits, immigration – but they added up both to an answer to the perennial question ‘what does he stand for?’, and to a repudiation of a Prime Minister who, after bigotgate, sees his character torn to shreds in the press. Meanwhile, Brown’s talk about fighting until the last second makes him sound more like John McCain than Barack Obama.

Few party messages have truly broken through the hurly-burly of the debates; excepting Nick Clegg’s breakthrough in the first, only Cameron has truly rammed home a coherent, whole message. It was a good performance, and though something more is needed in this week to secure an overall majority, it put him in good stead for these last days – and he will likely be rewarded for it. This should worry anyone who believes in ‘progressive politics’, the Guardian included. In a post well worth reading, Next Left reminds us of what that paper said in 2005, quoting CP Snow:

“It is quite possible that while Liberalism and Labour are snapping and snarling at each other the Conservative dog may run away with the bone. That would be lamentable.”

If such an outcome would have been lamentable in the early 20th century, it would be just as lamentable in the early 21st.

The case must still be made – positively, energetically, proudly – that the Tory dog must be kept in the pound.

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7 comments
  1. Oh yes, from an Australian to the old, old country, please do keep the Tory dog in the pound, and we’ll do our best to keep the conservatives here where they should be – in opposition.

    • danhartland said:

      Thanks for the moral support, Nigel! Tonight’s polls suggest that talk of Tory momentum may have been precipitate; but it’s all margin-of-error stuff, and it still feels to me as if the Tory campaign has hit a consistent tone which Labour in particular are failing to match …

  2. Hey Dan,

    Obviously, I disagree in regards to the Guardian and was quite pleased with (and, funnily enough, sort of expecting) their swicth to the Lib Dems. To be honest, it’s been apparent for quite sometime that the guardian didn’t particularly like the Labour party but it was never feasable to do this before. Whilst the Libs still have a few kinks to sort out, many of their ideas and certainly their outlook ( Strongy pluralist but valuing the individual, as opposed to always view socitey as ‘collectives’ and ‘groups’ maybe stearing away from labours more authoritarian leanings) are the future of the centre left whoever ends up implementing them.

    Where I feel you are right is that if it is more important to the Guardian to keep the tories out, as opposed to sticking to principle and going with the gut, then maybe you have a point. It’s funny, the labour party seemed, at first, happy with the lib dem bounce assuming it bennifeted them; Really it has created a centre left split, all of those I know who have switched to Liberal would have almost certainly have otherwise voted Labour (even though, like the Guardian, they didn’t particularly like them). That been said I’ve never been a tactical voter, maybe I’m misgiuded but I’d find it incredibly hard not to vote with what I beleive at the time.

    anyway, Interesting blog

    Catho

  3. danhartland said:

    Hi, Catho – you’re absolutely right, the Guardian has over the last few years done as much as any Tory rag to undermine support for Labour. It has a deep dislike of Labour’s ‘authoriatian tendencies’ – a dislike I share – which has led it, however, to turn itself upside down. The Guardian was once a paper committed to championing the poor; it now champions the people who like to think they champion the poor – much like the liberal left tendency it espouses.

    The authoritarian left tendency, too, is often wrongheaded – Labour governments throughout the century, not just Blair’s, have for instance traditionally been pretty right-wing on foreign policy (c.f. Attlee). The real issue with this Labour government has been the domestic authoritarianism, which I agree has gone too far – but which I disagree must equal a repudiation, rather than a reorientation, of Labour. The Liberal Democrat emphasis seems to me just like the Guardian one – on bourgeois issues like constitutional reform, rather than on fighting poverty and redistributing wealth. (The Liberal Democrats, lest we forget, opposed the minimum wage.)

    A Lib-Lab coalition might indeed balance the problems with both traditions. If only it were possible to vote for that option. It isn’t, of course, and thus we risk as you say the split of the centre-left vote.

  4. Becky said:

    Dan, that photo is almost as terrifying as Johann Hari’s piece in the Indy today *shudders*

    • danhartland said:

      I have seen the future, and it is smug.

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