If the Tory “surge” produces an overall majority, watch out for the recriminations that the Lib-Lab “progressive majority ” failed to nudge voters towards tactical voting earlier. Some of the animus I guess would be directed at Nick Clegg who has been giving the uncommitted brilliant reasons for not voting Labour – and thereby may have been deflating his own balloon. He may be lucky now to win 85 seats, well up on last time but painfully short of the great hopes raised by the first debate.
Clegg reminds me a bit of Democratic outsider Senator Eugene McCarthy, who mobilised American boomers in the epic election year of 1968. He succeeded in toppling the (partly undeservedly) loathed and distrusted LBJ as his party’s standard bearer, only to open the door of the White House to Richard Nixon, courtesy of the “silent majority.” I leave the parallels to your imagination.
To be fair, Clegg had an agonisingly difficult call to make – and still may have, if after all, the parliament is hung. The British political system has almost no experience of tactical voting on the appropriate scale and the winner take all nature of first-past-the-post rules out pre-election pacts.
So for the record, here is Ed Balls the most aggressively partisan of Labour ministers, Brown’s right hand man who will not be the next Labour leader, calling for tactical voting in the New Statesman (out only on polling day). To little, too late? Why didn’t he say this on TV?
I urge Lib Dem voters to bite their lip and back us.” But what about Labour supporters in Tory-Lib Dem marginals? “I always want the Labour candidate to win, but I recognise there’s an issue in places like North Norfolk, where my family live, where Norman Lamb [the Lib Dem candidate and sitting MP] is fighting the Tories, who are in second place. And I want to keep the Tories out.”
Balls is still positioned against PR and a Lib Dem post election deal.
PR leads to a politics of behind-closed-doors deals after elections. It makes it harder to make long-term decisions and it gives more power to small parties . . . and I don’t believe as a matter of principle that coalition governments are better.”
He still doesn’t get it. Why should Lib Dems in any constituency vote Labour if all they get is more of Ed Balls?
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London