Monday, April 26, 2010

Clegg tells Lib Dems: vote Labour to stop Cameron

Nick Clegg now says he won’t deal with Labour if the party comes third in the popular vote, as several polls have suggested. This means that Lib Dems who don’t want to prop up David Cameron now have reason to switch to Labour, pushing the party up into second – and the Lib Dems down into third.

According to ComRes and YouGov polls, far more Lib Dem voters would be happy (and far fewer unhappy) with a Lib-Lab arrangement in a hung parliament than with a Lib-Con arrangement.

So, in giving a bit more clarity about what he’d do in a certain type of hung parliament, Clegg has also given many of his own supporters a bizarre but real incentive not to vote for him. He told the BBC yesterday:

It is just preposterous the idea that if a party comes third in terms of the number of votes, it still has somehow the right to carry on squatting in No 10 and continuing to lay claim to having the prime minister.

A party which has come third… cannot then lay claim to providing the prime minister of this country.

And many recent polls do put Labour third in terms of votes. So, if that happens, Clegg will make sure Cameron becomes PM. Lib Dem voters who don’t want that thus have reason to stop Labour coming third. If they want to do that, their course of action will depend on the constituency they live in.

If it’s a competitive Lib Dem vs Tory race, then of course they should still vote Lib Dem. If it’s a competitive Labour-Tory race, they should vote Labour. Standard tactical voting drill so far.

But Clegg’s refusal to deal with a third-placed Labour changes everything else. Those who prefer a Lib-Lab government will need to push Labour’s vote up into second – and the Lib Dem vote down into third. Perverse, but that’s the situation Clegg has created.

In a safe seat – held by any party, with any other party a distant second – they should vote to boost Labour’s overall vote share.

And even in a competitive Lib-Lab seat, they now have reason to switch to Labour: one fewer Lib Dem MP would hardly alter the balance of power in whatever coalition, but fewer Labour votes will guarantee Cameron in power.

(Of course, Labour coming second in votes wouldn’t mean a Lib-Lab deal was certain; it would just create the possibility.)

So there we are. I doubt Clegg meant for this to happen, but this is the logic of what he’s said. Now you know why he’d been so keen to keep it vague. Luckily for him, this is hardly a line Labour can use in its campaign: ‘Vote for us so that you don’t push us into third place and then there’s a chance you can do a deal with us rather than the first-placed Tories’? Can’t quite see it…


CS Clark said...

Clegg’s refusal to deal with a third-placed Labour? But has he actually said that? He's said he would talk to the Tories 'first' (a polite fiction I'm sure, since there will be constant communication). He hasn't ruled out telling them to piss off if the talks go

NC: So, PR?
DC: Um...
(NC waits five more seconds and hangs up)

He also hasn't ruled out the possibility of a Lib-Lab coalition with Clegg as PM. That's probably one reason why he hasn't mustered much outrage over the possibility of anyone other than the first-placed in popular vote party squatting in Number 10.

I have to disagree with your conclusion, by the way. A slogan of 'Everything is changing. Every vote counts.' could work quite well, even in all the safe Tory seats that unaccountably have Labour voters in them.

CS Clark said...

Additionally, I see currently Cameron is urging Lib Dems to vote Conervative for progressive policies. Which could lower the Lib Dem vote and help Labour get second place at which point the Lib Dems can enter coalition with them instead of the Tories. Is life too fucking weird or what?

Tom Freeman said...

It's becoming far too complicated.

Clegg hasn't ruled out a deal in which he get to be PM, eh? Yeah, and I'm sure he hasn't ruled out deals in which he gets his own space shuttle and is made chair of judges for the Miss World competition.