Thinking and voting different ways?
No doubt Peter Hain writing in The Guardian calling on people to ‘Think Lib Dem but vote for Labour’ will upset a few people. However, his piece is little more than political common sense; in key marginal seats voters who have previously backed the Liberal Democrats could make a significant difference. Therefore calling on them to support Labour is hardly traitorous, it actually shows sound tactical judgement.
These voters could well have come from a position of voting Labour and are voting Liberal Democrat as a protest. Often a single issue (like, for example, the Iraq War) will have driven them away and still they remain stubbornly in protest mood. However, they recognise the dangers of a Conservative government and this is why when polled Liberal Democrat voters consistently prefer Labour over the Conservatives.
Talking to them about common ground should remind them of how Labour can be a home for them again. It might also be worth while showing them Labour can listen to their concerns; our record on civil liberties is not one to be proud of and its an area where some ‘core values’ thinking is needed as is the taxation system.
Hain’s ambit will also put pressure on the Liberal Democrat leadership which belligerently and myopically dreams of replacing Labour. While rightly pointing to common ground we need to be aware of differences: Nick Clegg and his desire for ‘savage cuts’ make him personally a unrealiable ally on fiscal policy (though the same does not apply to Vince Cable who has consistently sounded closer to Labour).
Doubtless Hain would have not been able to go public were his opinion not representative in some way of opinion within the Cabinet. Given the state of the opinion polls and the current political climate it would be nonsensical for the Party leadership not to prepare the ground for possible co-operation with the Liberal Democrats and I, for one, despite the problems see that as being preferable to giving the upper hand to the Conservatives.