Some might think this entirely unsurprising given the Conservative resurgence under David Cameron. However, I’m not talking about the overall political battleground, but the fight on the centre-left of British politics. Among that part of the British electorate that would never vote Conservative, it is clear that Labour is still the leading party.
If you were to ask most lefties what were the two worst things to happen to this country in the last decade, most of them would surely answer Iraq and the credit crunch (quite a lot of rightwingers would give the same answer, but that’s another story). However much they might want to blame these two disasters on George W Bush and the bankers, they can hardly deny what is, at the very least, the supporting role played by the Labour Government in both cases. Nor could they deny that, in each instance, the Lib Dems took a position that was distinctly opposed to that of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
So given the gravity of both of these issues, why do centre-left voters continue to back Labour by such a substantial margin? What else does Labour have to do to lose this zombie vote? Invade Cuba? Ban the trade unions? Bring back capital punishment (for shoplifting)?
Is it that the Lib Dems aren’t considered a serious political force – leaving Labour as the only centre-left party worthy of government? As tempting as it might be to dismiss the Lib Dems as lightweights, I would question whether one could fairly rate the talents of Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, and David Laws below those of Harriet Harman, Bob Ainsworth and Ed Balls. Nick Clegg is rather more problematic, but as Lib Dem leader, he’s still an improvement on his predecessors.
Perhaps it’s a matter of organisation – a lack of campaigning infrastructure in Labour’s heartlands? Again, I’m not convinced. Lib Dems have a strong local government presence in several northern cities including Liverpool, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle. The same can be said for Birmingham and London boroughs like Southwark and Islington. Yet somehow it’s not translating into an extinction-level threat to the Labour Party.
It isn’t for lack of precedent. At the 1983 general election, the Alliance parties came within two percentage points of pushing Labour into third place. Obviously Gordon Brown is a stronger leader than Michael Foot. But, then again, Michael Foot didn’t ruin the country.
But hang on a moment. Why would any right thinking person want the Lib Dems to be doing better?
Well, it's like this: I don’t just want Labour defeated at the next election, I want to see them destroyed. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have presided over the most immoral and destructive Government in our post-war history. Their legacy is a broken society, a broken economy and something not that far off a broken democracy. Their corrupt and cowardly party deserves oblivion, but even a Conservative landslide cannot guarantee this. Labour must be defeated on the centre-left of the political spectrum, as well as in the nation as a whole. That would mean that some other centre-left party would have to benefit – most obviously the Lib Dems. I don’t expect Conservatives to be particularly happy about this prospect. But then we don’t have to be. When it comes to relative fortunes of Labour and the Lib Dems, the operating principle, now more than ever, is business before pleasure.