Friday, May 29, 2009


The Guardian Endorses the Lib Dems – Up To A Point

Liberal Democrats have good reason to be happy for a moment with Britain’s most mealy-mouthed newspaper. Yesterday, Nick Clegg launched his Take Back Power 100-day campaign in a Guardian article. Today, their editorial is full of praise for us:
“The party championed reform when it was unfashionable. The difference is that other parties are now competing to match them. The Lib Dem leader has run a bold pro-European campaign in the current elections (though no one has noticed). The Lib Dems have been ahead of the curve on the three great contemporary crises: climate change, the constitution and the economy.”
Yes, today’s leader column starts off slightly grudgingly, but they have to admit that we’ve got it right, often for years. They put down Nick Clegg, to raise him. All that’s fair enough for a newspaper rather than a cheerleader. They praise Nick’s long-term push for Gurkha rights, and how that “was rewarded when MPs passed a Lib Dem motion in the Commons for the first time in decades,” then hesitantly suggest that the Liberal Democrats can compete right across the country: “Labour’s woes allow him to pitch for progressive votes.” As if Labour was progressive. And there’s the rub. Our opportunity doesn’t come simply because Labour are unpopular. It’s because Labour are wrong. But, like an abused cultist, The Guardian still blindly wants to believe.

The editorial concludes by, rightly, suggesting that “voters may not reward the party just for being sensible,” but then finishes on the eternal Guardian put-down note: “the search for the elusive breakthrough is the ancient curse of third-party politics.”

And the reason I eternally curse the Guardian is that they always have that weasel-worded, mealy-mouthed cop-out.

People slag off The Sun and the rest of Mr Murdoch’s stable because, whatever their true views, they swing with the prevailing tide. No-one can pretend their views were ever genuinely in tune with the Labour Party more than the Conservative Party; but Labour have spent the last decade and a half cravenly surrendering to The Sun’s views, and in return The Sun has shone on them (for a limited time only!) because it couldn’t face backing the losers. It is a popular, and populist, paper. So what’s The Guardian’s excuse?

Over and over and over again, they complain that the government is terrible on civil liberties, the environment, poverty, constitutional reform… But, over and over and over again, because that government is a Labour Government, they endorse them at election time because, oh, they’re probably going to win. They’d rather call for their readers to vote tribally for a party that will let them down in every way than take a risk and put their votes where their mouths are. So, Liberal Democrats, enjoy the moment of praise while you can. At the election, I’m willing to bet that they’ll urge support for the bloated corpse of the Labour Party once again, or (if they’re still bumping along at 20% in the polls and so utterly doomed that even The Guardian can see it) perhaps take a punt on that nice Mr Cameron and his text-message democracy veneer of ‘reform’ because, after all, he’ll probably win. But it won’t be the party that actually puts its arse on the line for the issues on which The Guardian merely pontificates.

Come the General Election, when it counts, when we’re once again the only party that stands up for most of the Guardian’s causes, will The Guardian be full of praise – or just full of it?

Update Sunday 31st May: The Guardian’s sister paper The Observer comes off the fence and calls for a positive, not protest, Liberal Democrat vote in the Euro-elections as the best party on the issues. Watch that space for the General Election…

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You're totally right, of course, but isn't the real question how can we secure that Guardian endorsement? Given that it's basically the main 'quality' newspaper of the left, getting an endorsement is both highly electorally valuable and probably necessary if we're ever going to displace Labour.
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