I’m not seduced by Adonis – what I wrote for the Grauniad

by Stephen Tall on April 10, 2010

I’ve a short article for today’s Guardian Comment Is Free setting out my reasons for failing to be wooed by Labour’s Lord Adonis’s appeal to Lib Dems to vote Labour.

I have one thing in common with Lord A. – we were both once Lib Dem councillors in Oxford, he in the late ’80s, me in the ‘Noughties’. But our political journeys have been pretty different. He left the Lib Dems, seemingly mesmerised by Tony Blair’s allure, to join Labour in the mid-90s. I left Labour in 1999, dismayed by Tony Blair’s inability to convert progressive talk into legislative action, a concern Lord A. seems never t have encountered.

Anyway, here’s m’piece …

Lord (Andrew) Adonis, Labour’s herocially-named transport secretary, has made a craven begging pitch for Lib Dem votes today, arguing “It’s madness to split the centre-left vote.”

For a man reputed to have a brain the size of a planet, Lord Adonis makes a surprisingly intellectually flimsy case. He sets up a rhetorical ‘straw-man’ that it is “nonsense” to pretend the Lib Dems are equidistant between Labour and the Tories. Yet Nick Clegg could scarcely have been clearer: the Tories are our political enemy, while Labour are our rivals for the votes of liberal-left progressives.

And there is (as Lord Adonis would doubtless admit in private) a gaping flaw in his argument that progressives should vote Labour in Lib Dem-Tory marginals to stop the Tories getting in. Erm, come again?

There is a respectable argument for tactical voting given our clunking electoral system. And if Lord Adonis really wants to pursue his “don’t let the Tories in” scare tactic to its logical conclusion, it’s very clear what progressives should do in Lib Dem-Tory marginals: vote Lib Dem.

And it’s just as clear what progressives should do in those seats where it’s a straight choice between Labour or the Lib Dems: vote Lib Dem.

Let’s talk tax. It was Labour who abolished the 10p tax-rate, a move which hit hardest workers on the lowest incomes, and it’s Labour which opposes Lib Dem plans to lift anyone earning less than £10,000 out of tax altogether by increasing the taxes of the wealthiest.

Or let’s talk political reform. It was Labour which reneged on their manifesto promise to hold a referendum on electoral reform, and it’s Labour which has consistently opposed Lib Dem attempts to elect the House of Lords, crack down on lobbying abuses, introduce fixed-term parliaments, or allow the public to sack corrupt MPs.

And let’s not even try and talk Iraq, which Lord Adonis breezily dismisses as “now largely behind us”. He might as well have added “in a far-away country of which we no little”.

Liberal-left voters have been let down by Labour for 13 years. Those sticking with Labour can keep their pegs on their noses in the vain hope Labour will recover its progressive conscience. Better still, they could switch to the Lib Dems and make sure progressive politics has a true voice in the next Parliament.