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.