Regular readers of this blog will note that Ken Livingstone is currently behind Boris Johnson in the polls for the election of Mayor of London next year. But we should remember that the election will take place using a system called the "Supplementary Vote." So crucial for Livingstone in overcoming the gap is for to woo Lib Dem supporters. They will naturally wish to vote for their own candidate as a first preference. But they will also have a second preference.
Here is the Livingstone pitch:
"The Lib Dems are a venal sub-species."
When I knock on doors in the Ravenscourt Park Ward I meet lots of Lib Dem and Labour supporters who seem to me to be overwhelmingly polite, decent, intelligent people whom I am proud to represent despite our different allegiances. (Usually the Labour supporters are less rich and more right wing than the Lib Dems.) Of course we all have anecdotes of dishonest Lib Dem campaign leaflets – there is certainly no shortage of examples of dishonest Labour campaign messages from my borough. But I would not say that those who vote Lib Dem (or Labour) are a "venal sub-species". Nor would I say it of those Lib Dem politicians with whom I disagree (like Simon Hughes) – still less of those with whom I generally agree (like David Laws.)
But what of the crude politics of this? I don't rely on sucking up to get second preference votes from Lib Dems to secure election. If you want to get elected Mayor of London it is a different matter.
We could do with some clarity over whether Livingstone's remark is a reference to all Lib Dem voters or just Lib Dem members or just Lib Dem candidates/councillors/MPs.
In any event does Livingstone's appeal need some fine tuning?