I had a link retweeted into my timeline just now and it made me shake my head in despair over what might’ve been. Paul Flynn MP has written a blog post entitled, One Leader, One Party, One Enemy. The blog is about how Labour’s coronation of Jeremy Corbyn as leader should further focus the minds of the party on who the real enemy is for them and that is the Tories. If only that was their mantra for the past five years then who knows how things would’ve panned out but of course is most certainly wasn’t.
For as we all know Labour spent more time, more column inches, more media sound-bytes and more leaflet words on berating the Lib Dems than they did on attacking the Tories. It was a easy win for them as winning over disaffected Lib Dem voters was a far easier job than winning over potential Tory voters. The only problem to this strategy was it was doomed to lead to another Tory led government and isn’t that exactly what the Labour party didn’t want? They had to decide whether they hated the Lib Dems more than they hated the Tories and they decided that the Lib Dems were the target of choice and to allow the Tories to lead the 2015-2020 government.
I choose the word ‘allow’ with thought because that is what they chose to do. Attacking the Lib Dems the way they did consistently over the five years of the previous government could only ever lead to a Conservative led government (note I don’t say majority as I don’t think anyone really saw that coming but still). This is a case of simple electoral mathematics that people don’t like but that is the way of the world. If there are more Tory/LD marginals than Labour/LD marginals then the wholesale collapse of the LD vote would lead to more Labour MPs but would lead to even more Tory MPs. It is quite basic stuff and when you are targeting LD seats at the expense of a Tory/Labour marginal then you know that you’ve drawn your line in the sand and that is that you prefer the Tories to the Lib Dems.
Take for example Ed Balls and Nick Clegg. One of the very few ‘surprises’ that wasn’t a surprise to me was Ed Balls going down. Everyone knew that he was in trouble and that it was an extremely marginal seat. Ed Balls wasn’t a popular consistency MP and he’d barely scraped home in 2010 so with the Tories not exactly down in the polls, basic logic had the seat as tight. However Tom Watson had a vanity project that was more important that ensuring Ed Balls’ survival and that was seeing Nick Clegg go down in nearby Sheffield Hallam. So instead of going all out to defend Ed Balls from a very embarrassing defeat, he had a mission to kick Nick Clegg out of parliament. He visited Sheffield Hallam on five occasions. Nick Clegg as we all know just about survived but Ed Balls did not.
If you asked Labour whether they would’ve preferred to win Sheffield Hallam but sacrifice Morley and Outwood then I suspect the blood lust would say that they would do that deal in a heartbeat. Swapping a Lib Dem for a Tory is a deal they would’ve done in a heartbeat. This has goes to more than suggest that the whole strategy and ire of the Labour party 2010-2015 wasn’t pointed at winning a General Election but by kicking the Lib Dems.
In the UK there is clearly a broad anti-Tory majority but in our political system to knock them off the other parties need to essentially have some form of cohesive strategy. That would include not to point their cannons mainly on other anti-Tory parties. Sadly in politics too many people like to play politics and shoot at everyone and in turn allow the Tories to come through the middle and win.
In 2015 the Lib Dem vote collapsed rightly or wrongly but in those seats where they could beat the Tories but didn’t, they didn’t win not because of poor local campaigns but because for five years the Labour party had been launching a vast media attack on the Lib Dems and thus allowed the Tories to take those seats. It is the classic case of winning individual battles but losing the war. That might actually saw up the 2015 General Election pretty well for Labour.
If the Labour party concentrate on taking on the Tories then it will do the opposite of what happened earlier this year. If it is Tory attack after Tory attack then in those Tory/LD marginals, the Tories might slip up and lose and in the Tory/Labour marginals the Tory vote will slip and go towards the red rose. In politics you have to pick your battles and know both who your real opposition is and know the best path to being the leading party in Westminster. For Labour it is training the cannons on the Tories and the same for the Lib Dems.
In 2015 the Lib Dems ran what was a defensive campaign aimed at keeping the seats where they were entrenched and dug in but sadly for them it failed because the national narrative was so anti-LD that people who were angry at the Lib Dems for betrayal were more happy to see them lose than they were for the Tories to lose. If you voted Lib Dem to keep out the Tories but felt betrayed by them because the Tories were so evil, then allowing the Tories to win just seems oxymoronic to me but what the hell do I know?
If Paul Flynn is right that the latest incarnation of Labour are there to take on the one enemy that is the Conservative party then that is a strategy that will best serve the anti-Tory cause. I still firmly believe that a Jeremy Corbyn led party can’t make the gains they need to win a majority. There are just too many constituencies where the demographics are not favourable for an extreme left party to come through. Yet having said that, Labour can dig themselves out of holes they created for themselves in many Tory/Labour marginals and if the narrative is once more not on how evil the Lib Dems are but how bad the Tories are then there are enough Tory/LD marginals that can turn yellow and keep the blues out of power.
I await with interest to see what the plan is, will raw emotion or shrewd strategy win the day? We shall see as they say…
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