I’ve finally decided how to vote – as I’ve blogged before, in Princess Bride style, it’s been very hard to decide how to vote in Cambridge. Cambridge is a strange seat – over the last few decades we’ve had Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs – and at present it is a Lib Dem/Labour marginal. The sitting MP, Julian Huppert, is a good man, a local man, and one of very few MPs who understands the internet, something that really matters to me. And yet, after today, I can’t either support him, or vote Green (I’m a Green party member) which might effectively support him. Instead, I feel that I have to vote Labour. Why? For one simple reason: it looks very much as though the Lib Dems would prop up a Tory government.
Nick Clegg has been the persuasive factor. Today, he’s been saying things that confirm that, to all intents and purposes, he would prefer to go into coalition with the Tories. There are many reasons for him to prefer that – but even the suggestion means that I have to vote against the Lib Dems.
The ‘logic’ that Nick Clegg has used is that he would do a deal with the ‘largest party’, and he has suggested that this would be the ‘legitimate’ thing to do – though constitutionally this is entirely unconvincing. Rather, it looks like an entirely self-serving suggestion. And it’s worse than that. Choosing which party to form an alliance with based solely on the number of seats they win is a morally bankrupt position: it’s like choosing who to have a relationship with based on the amount in their bank balance. Would anyone with any morals do that at all? Don’t you choose your partners on whether you like them or not? Whether you get on well together? Whether you’re compatible? The same, surely, has to be true of political alliances – unless your party has no morals, no objectives, no policies, surely you would choose which party to ally with on the basis of their policies, first and foremost, or their politicians themselves – their trustworthiness, and so forth? Clegg isn’t saying that. He’s saying that his party is open to offers from whoever has the most seats. If he really doesn’t care about their policies, then what kind of morality does that suggest?
If, on the other hand, the Lib Dems choose to cozy up to the Tories because they prefer their policies, then I’m even more worried. Which of the Tories’ policies do they like? The brutality of their policies towards vulnerable people? The illiberalism of Grayling’s legal policies? The xenophobia of the immigration policies? The divisiveness of their tax policies? The Govean attempts to bring education back to the ‘golden age’ of division and discarding those deemed unworthy?
None of that sounds very convincing as a reason for the Lib Dems to cozy up to the Tories. It’s easy, on the other hand, to see why Clegg himself should like to cozy up to the Tories: it looks very much as though his survival as an MP will depend on Tory defectors. The polls suggest that the Tory voters like Clegg – and one of the main reasons for that is how compliant Clegg has been in coalition.
That, then, brings the biggest and most worrying thing of all – and the ultimate reason why it would seem wrong not to oppose the Lib Dems in every way. The Independent, in their leader, suggested that the best result would be another Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, but one that is more liberal and less conservative. The problem is, exactly the opposite would be inevitable should the Lib Dems ally with the Tories. How could the Lib Dems exert more leverage this time around, if they had half the number of MPs that they had before? And how likely is it that the Tories would be anything but more conservative? The few ‘liberals’ amongst their ranks have been sidelined or discarded – Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke for example – whilst the hardliners have been kept or promoted. Iain Duncan Smith. Chris Grayling.
No, any new Tory/Lib Dem coalition would be almost certain to be much more conservative, more extreme than this one – and that is too hideous not to oppose in every way possible. That, in Cambridge, means voting Labour, even if that means voting against one of the best MPs in the house. If he was really as independent as he sometimes claims, I would vote for him – but he isn’t. He’s too decent, and too loyal to a leader and a party that does not deserve his loyalty – and for that reason I have to vote against him.
So, though I have huge misgivings about Labour, from their immigration and civil liberties policies onwards, I have to vote for them. There is no real choice, now that the Lib Dems have shown their hand.