David Blackburn

From carpet-bombing to love-bombing

From carpet-bombing to love-bombing
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Labour’s relationship with the Lib Dems gets more like Dallas’s JR and Sue Ellen with each passing day. Contemptuous and contemptible one day to lisping breathless compliments the next.  Gordon Brown snarled at Nick Clegg during last week’s debate. Clegg would, Brown argued, leap gaily into bed with the Tories on Friday morning - a departure from the previous ‘we must form a progressive coalition’ line pushed by Andrew Adonis. This morning brings another volte face: Brown and several cabinet ministers urge ‘progressives’ to vote tactically.

Writing in the Guardian, Gordon Brown pitches for Lib Dems to vote Labour in 100 Tory/Labour marginals. Peter Hain insists that votes are cast ‘with heads, not hearts’, further inducing Lib Dem voters with the promise of ‘a four year alliance in the next parliament’. Most telling of all, the tribal Ed Balls, who is conducting a rearguard in his constituency, tells the New Statesman that he hopes ‘Lib Dem voters will bite their lips and back us’. He also suggests that Labour ‘recognise there’s an issue’ in Tory/Lib Dem marginals. Douglas Alexander has chipped in too, so the indications are that Labour’s attack dogs will have turned into the Peace Corps by Thursday evening.

The response is predictable – encompassing terms such as ‘desperate’, ‘last gasp’, ‘unworkable’ etc etc. Those are all apt descriptions of Labour’s schizophrenic strategy. Interchanging between love and hate is a sign of desperation, and it’s emblematic of the indecision associated with Brown’s premiership. Also, having concentrated firepower against Nick Clegg the ‘threat to national security’, Nick Clegg ‘the anti-American’, Nick Clegg the ‘softie on immigration’, Nick Clegg ‘the man whose policy on the euro may have brought us to ruin’ and Nick Clegg ‘the savage cutter’ has revealed that the ground between Labour and the Lib Dems is irreconcilable. Labour is the architect of its predicament and this latest fluttering of eyelashes at Clegg comes too late.