The existence of more than sixty LibDem MPs is amongst the biggest of barriers to a parliamentary majority for the Conservative Party. The best way of unseating those LibDem MPs is, in ConservativeHome’s opinion, a ‘Vote Tory To Get Rid Of Labour‘ message. We need to make it clear that LibDems MPs could end up propping up the Government of prisoner releases, loans-for-peerages and squandered billions. The success of that pitch does depend upon there being a high level of determination to want Labour gone. Yesterday’s Guardian/ ICM poll with its ‘70% want change‘ finding suggested that most voters are ready to see Labour kicked out. A Populus poll for this morning’s Times, however, finds that most voters still think that New Labour has been a force for good. Perhaps voters will not be so determined to defeat Labour MPs at any cost?
I provide all of this by way of context and introduction for Matthew Parris’ article in today’s Times. Mr Parris, undoubtedly a jewel in the crown of British journalism, has some clear advice for Ming Campbell (who has just finished a good week in Brighton). Mr Parris thinks that Sir Ming should talk up his party’s role as the ‘balance of power party’. He thinks that the LibDems (perceived by most voters (wrongly) as moderates) should promise to civilise the next minority government – Labour or Tory. Here is the message that Mr Parris has drafted for LibDem party workers as they go from door-to-door at the next General Election:
"Look, let’s be honest. You’re right. My party is probably not going to lead the next government. But if you read the papers you’ll know that it’s highly possible that no party will get an overall majority. If so then either the Tories or Labour will have to talk to us Liberal Democrats about how far we could support them as a minority government.
“Our aim will not be to wreck such a government, but to civilise it. That means locking out the extremists on either side. If Mr Cameron has to lead a minority government, think of the nuisance all those far-right-wingers in his party, who have never liked him, could try to cause. Look what they did to Mr Major. We Liberal Democrats can insist that Cameron govern as he campaigned: as a moderate.
“If Alan Johnson/Gordon Brown/John Reid has to lead a minority government, the old Left in the Labour Party and the trade unions will try to hold the Cabinet to ransom. We could support the sensible people in the Labour Party against the Neanderthals.
“Liberal Democrats can be Britain’s insurance policy against extremists of Left or Right. If you’re half-persuaded by David Cameron’s “compassionate Conservatism” and “green” conversion, but worried whether he can really practise what he has preached, we’ll make sure he does. If you used to believe new Labour’s promise, but have lost confidence they’ll stick to it next time, we’ll see they do.
“This doesn’t mean we’ve decided to enter a formal coalition, or that either side can expect our support. We’re prepared to support either or neither. It depends on them. You know where we stand — it’s in our manifesto — and that’s the way we’ll be using the influence a narrow result will give us.
“And the more of us there are in Parliament, the better. Think about it. We could hold the balance.”
What do you think?