Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Lib Dems' campaign: misleading advertising?

Nick Clegg, 30 April 2010: "I don't think the choice is between Conservative and Labour – the choice is now between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats".

Some of the people defending the so-called Lib/Con coalition point at similar scenarios in countries with more proportional voting systems.

If you want to avoid distorted landslide majorities, their argument runs, coalition governments are the price to pay for electoral fairness.

This view, however, is flawed on several levels.

1) Most parties joining coalition governments in Western Europe (i.e. France, Germany, Italy) run their election campaign openly declaring where their allegiance is. The process is not as murky as what we saw in the wake of May 6 in the UK. Someone voting for the Green Party in Germany knows that their party will either remain independent, or form (like they did from 1998 to 2005) a coalition with the SPD.

Similarly, someone casting a vote for the Northern League in Italy will know already that their party will be a firm ally of Silvio Berlusconi's party.

Of course there are exceptions (like when the Catalan nationalists CiU backed Aznar's right-wing government in Spain in 1996) but, understandably, they don't tend to go down too well with the electorate.

2) The Liberal Democrats campaigned consistently as an "alternative" party. The reason why so many Lib Dem voters are up in arms at the sight of Nick Clegg jumping in bed with David Cameron is that, for many years, the Lib Dems portrayed themselves as "the real alternative" to both the old parties. "The party that is different", in fact.

Their recent "Labservative" campaign was launched as the party preened themselves as "the only real alternative" to the other two.

But the most atrocious piece of politicking can be found in an interview Nick Clegg gave to a national newspaper six days before the election. Two weeks ago, the Lib Dem leader remarked: "We have taken Labour's place in UK politics".

Most importantly, he added: "I don't think the choice is between Conservative and Labour – the choice is now between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats". Clegg couldn't have been any clearer: a vote for the LibDems would be alternative to the Tories- and that was said on April 30.

More, he also said: "I think if you look at the debate last night, there is just a gulf between what David Cameron stands for and what I stand for – in terms of values, in terms of internationalism, in terms of fairness, in terms of progressive tax reform, in terms of political reform, in terms of simply living in denial, as does Labour, about a major problem of their creation in the immigration system."

I guess even a five-year-old could see why millions of voters and activists now feel shafted.

Particularly, there are entire areas in England (particularly the south-west) where, traditionally, Labour have been a non-entity and the only alternative to the Conservatives have been the Liberal Democrats.

Just imagine thousands of activists working their arse off to fight off the Tories in several constituencies only to find out that a week or two later all that had been an exercise in futility.


Ray said...

What this shows is the FPTP is incompatible with coalitions. You cannot say "vote for me, I will then join with X party" under FPTP - you have to campaign as though you are the only logical choice to the other idiots.

This is why we need either a form of voting which will allow for minority governments - especially as the internet allows for voters to make more choices than are usually offered - or change the voting system to make the coalitions more honest.

FlipC said...

I think this is why Hague announced the next general election for 2015 rather than keeping it vague.

Everyone expected them to settle down for a bit then call another election so as to ditch the LibDems. What they've realised is that the LibDem 'cabinet' has ticked off all their supporters who'll turn to Labour instead.

So the Conservatives would be out of power, and the LibDems will end up with even fewer seats; neither of them want that.

So make an announcement in the name of "removing uncertainty" and sod the electorate.

Norn said...

"run their election campaign openly declaring where their allegiance is"

As Ray says, you can't do that in FPTP elections. Did you expect the Lib Dems to openly align with either party prior to the election?

Also, did anyone who voted SPD in Germany in 2005 expect them to get into bed with the CDU?

claude said...

Did you expect the Lib Dems to openly align with either party prior to the

Why not? It'd have been more honest. Bt of course our politicians will be fucked if they behave humanely and the LDs have shown they're no different.

At least they could have avoided pretending that it was a clear choice b/w them and the Tories and that "progressives" should vote LibDems to fight off the Conservatives.

"Also, did anyone who voted SPD in Germany in 2005 expect them to get into bed with the CDU?"

Actually, yes. It was widely expected. As one-off, of course, but it was expected that failing a clear outcome (as opinion polls indicated) that was going to be a distinct possibility.

Richard0 said...

From the Telegraph -

"Before now, it had been thought likely that Mr Clegg would wait until after an election to embark on negotiations with both of the main parties in the event of a hung Parliament.

But The Daily Telegraph understands that he has decided that the public would not forgive him if he propped up a Labour administration that they had voted to throw out."

from way back in 2008, so maybe not such a huge surprise anyway.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I go away Claude and come back to this God awful mess, I really wish I hadn't bothered. The UK is set to become a two party state and the death of the Lib Dems cannot be far off.

claude said...

your link is lame.
What sticks with people is the election campaign, not a rickety quote Clegg may have given in 2008.

And in the months in the run-up to May 6, Clegg, Cable & co repeated and confirmed that they would be alternative to the Tory. The quotes and links related to Apr 30 in the article here kill any residual doubt: voters were conned.

Tom said...

What are you moaning for, your lot won. Surely the alternative - more Brown - was worse.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of examples of the German Green Party/Alliance 90 doing deals with CDU and the FDP in the state governments – Hamburg springs to mind as a green-black government.

claude said...

not on a national level.

Locally is a different matter. We all know there were some Tory/LibDem coalitions, Birmingham being the main example. But local stuff is a different kettle of fish.

In any case if you're trying to launch a "new" and more trustworthy style of politics, the worst thing you can do is say days before the vote that you are are "the only alternative" to the party you're actually about to get in bed with.

Anonymous said...

Claude, Germany is a federal republic. Hamburg is a 'Land' a city-state, not a local council. The Greens agreed to coal power station and new motoway, as part of the deal with the CDU.

claude said...

It is NOT a national level. Stop trying to convince yourself.

Like I said, look at Birmingham. It's the biggest city council in Europe and the LiBDems have been ruling with the Tories (very badly in my opinion) for 6 years.

Yet, still, that is NOT national politics. To many, it meant nothing at the General Election (and how wrong were we...)

Nationally, Clegg, Cable and the others had been very clear. They repeated time and again, as the election approached, that a vote for the LibDems would keep the Tories out.

To quote Mehdi Hasan:

"Norman Lamb, in the Tory-Lib Dem seat of Norfolk North [called on Labour voters to vote Lib Dem] in order to keep the Conservatives out. The result? The third-placed Labour vote fell 3 per cent and Lib Dem Lamb held on to his seat with an increased majority over the second-placed Conservatives. In my view, Lamb now owes those tactical Labour voters in his constituency an apology. So do all those Lib Dem MPs who were elected in three-way marginals."

Anonymous said...

Ok if your not going to take the Black-Green Hamburg government, let's skip over to Finland where the Greens have(only just)joined the Lib/Con government, giving up on their former social democrat allies. Frankly as someone posted on a Scottish Green blog, the Liberals have won significant concessions on environmental policy, much better than the deal the Green Party got with Fianna Fáil in the Irish coalition.

claude said...

"Finland where the Greens have(only just)joined the Lib/Con government, giving up on their former social democrat allies."

So I suppose that makes it alright and you can go to bed with a clean conscience, right?

Look, well done on your googling skills. I'm sure there was also a case in Lichtenstein when a centre-left party unexpectedly lent their support to a conservative alliance or other.

If you read the OP, I myself mentioned the case of the Catalan nationalists (think the equivalent of PlaidCymru) propping up Aznar's super Spanish, right-wing, conservative, anti-separatist party.

Exceptions exist. But that doesn't make the Liberal Democrats' misleading electoral campaign any better or any more excusable.
They sold a totally different story to the electorate.

Anonymous said...

Where have gone? Didn't take long before they removed that site!

claude said...

Indeed. The site has been removed. I wonder why...tut tut...