Are Labour really so clumsy as to openly court Vince Cable and pretend we’re privately best chums with him?
The way I see it this strategy has two broad aims:
- Orientate the party for a potential post-2015 coalition with the Lib Dems, with Vince Cable as Leader.
- Destabilise the coalition, increasing the likelihood of a collapse and snap election, in which Labour would emerge as the largest party.
The question really is whether such a strategy will work or whether we will end up with egg on our faces.
We know Cable has had his vanity stroked before, but he’s not that stupid, even if he was vain enough to mouth off about News International to a couple of young, female (undercover) reporters.
The public aren’t so stupid either, and can well see what we’re up to. It risks looking like indulging in childish student politics when there are such big issues that need tackling.
It feels like there is little to gain and instead we just look daft, after spending years slagging off the Lib Dems (with Ed’s insincere ‘I want to destroy them’ line as a clumsy (albeit effective, seemingly) pitch during the Labour leadership election) then suddenly we sincerely love Vince Cable and declare that we could work with him tomorrow, regardless of parliamentary arithmetic.
It’s like banging on about what a leader Charles Kennedy is to undermine current Lib Dem leaders. ‘Well, the problem with Nick Clegg is that he’s no Charlie Kennedy’, as if we really, really liked Charles Kennedy and secretly supported him. It might work to wind up Nick Clegg but it doesn’t really achieve much.
We didn’t secretly love Charles Kennedy, and while Vince Cable may say things that chime with a lot of Labour members and supporters he is still in a Coalition with the Tories and his party will not be holding back any punches when it comes to campaigning against us in an election.
Similarly, Lib Dem supporters aren’t that stupid either, and they’re not (all) secret Labour supporters. Seeing a couple of prominent Labour politicians suddenly act as if they’re best buddies with Vince Cable is not going to make Lib Dem supporters more likely to demand Nick Clegg’s head on a platter.
Surely the result will be the other way round and they’ll see what we’re up to (a plot so visible you can see it from the moon) and rally round Clegg instead. To many Lib Dems, Labour are just as bigger enemy as the Tories and we should be aware of that. Those who used to vote Lib Dem as a centre-left alternative have now left the party and have started to support Labour again. Those who remain are not secret Labour supporters yearning to break free.
While speculation about Cameron’s job grows daily, it’s understandable that Labour want to stir up the hornet’s nest a bit but it all has the feel of the silly season about it. Supposedly even Thatcher at the height of her powers had up to 100 Tory MPs who disliked her and wanted to get rid of her (I think I read this in Alan Clarke’s diaries, so take it for what you will).
Of course, some parts of the media will play along, like the Daily Mail, out of a general dislike for David Cameron, who they blame for not being Margaret Thatcher. So they’ll happily print stories designed to needle and destabilise him and it’s part of Labour’s job as the Opposition to provide these stories. I can understand that.
I’m all for a bit of mischief making but like when we stormed to a Greggs at the height of the Pasty Tax furore and pretended it was all a coincidence, can we at least try and show a bit of class and do it cleverly without making it blatantly obvious to all and sundry what we’re up to?
Maybe we’re enacting a clever bluff, to secure Clegg’s position and further our chances as the only ‘progressive’ vote in 2015 to better enable us to build a majority.
Nah, I don’t think so either.
UPDATE: Seems I might have overestimated some Lib Dems. Though in fairness I suppose you could argue Ming is angry at Vince for the sake of coalition unity so it’s not quite the same thing.