+++ Holy crap, the Guardian endorses Lib Dems

Not content with publishing a letter from leading progressives, the Guardian tonight brings to an end its journey to a decision about which party to support.

The article is here.

General election 2010: The liberal moment has come
If the Guardian had a vote it would be cast enthusiastically for the Liberal Democrats. But under our discredited electoral system some people may – hopefully for the last time – be forced to vote tactically

We can certainly commend them on their decision, and my headline shows my surprise at them taking this bold step. I think many people were expecting the paper to resurrect its “clothespeg” stance from 2005. But let’s not forget the paper ultimately almost endorsed the Liberal Democrats in the European elections last year.

Those who comment beneath the articles waver between enthusiastic endorsement of the paper’s stance, criticism at the length of time it has taken to take a decision, and appalled horror from the remaining Labour stalwarts in the comments thread.

On the Conservatives

The article takes some considerable time to praise efforts from the Conservatives to re-align their party with a British mainstream, to diversify and speak to the many people in this country who aren’t extreme right wingers, and most importantly of all, to ditch Thatcher’s legacy. But they conclude the process is far from complete:

[David Cameron's] difficulty is not that he is the “same old Tory”. He isn’t. The problem is that his revolution has not translated adequately into detailed policies, and remains highly contradictory. He embraces liberal Britain yet protests that Britain is broken because of liberal values. He is eloquent about the overmighty state but proposes to rip up the Human Rights Act which is the surest weapon against it. He talks about a Britain that will play a constructive role in Europe while aligning the Tories in the European parliament with some of the continent’s wackier xenophobes. Behind the party leader’s own engagement with green issues there stands a significant section of his party that still regards global warming as a liberal conspiracy.

On the Labour party

The Guardian acknowledges – like many of us – that the Labour party has significant achievements from its time in office. But as the years go on, their failings become more apparent until they tip the scales away from Labour being a positive influence on our nation.

Invited to embrace five more years of a Labour government, and of Gordon Brown as prime minister, it is hard to feel enthusiasm. Labour’s kneejerk critics can sometimes sound like the People’s Front of Judea asking what the Romans have ever done for us. The salvation of the health service, major renovation of schools, the minimum wage, civil partnerships and the extension of protection for minority groups are heroic, not small achievements.

Yet, even among those who wish Labour well, the reservations constantly press in. Massive, necessary and in some cases transformational investment in public services insufficiently matched by calm and principled reform, sometimes needlessly entangled with the private sector. Recognition of gathering generational storms on pensions, public debt, housing and – until very recently – climate change not addressed by clear strategies and openness with the public about the consequences. The inadequately planned pursuit of two wars. A supposedly strong and morally focused foreign policy which remains trapped in the great-power, nuclear-weapon mentality, blindly uncritical of the United States, mealy-mouthed about Europe and tarnished by the shame of Iraq – still not apologised for.

On the Liberal Democrats

And as expected in an endorsement article, the paper reserves its warmest words for us.

[T]here is little doubt that in many areas of policy and tone, the Liberal Democrats have for some time most closely matched our own priorities and instincts. On political and constitutional change, they articulate and represent the change which is now so widely wanted. On civil liberty and criminal justice, they have remained true to liberal values and human rights in ways that the other parties, Labour more than the Tories in some respects, have not. They are less tied to reactionary and sectional class interests than either of the other parties.

The Liberal Democrats were green before the other parties and remain so. Their commitment to education is bred in the bone. So is their comfort with a European project which, for all its flaws, remains central to this country’s destiny. They are willing to contemplate a British defence policy without Trident renewal. They were right about Iraq, the biggest foreign policy judgment call of the past half-century, when Labour and the Tories were both catastrophically and stupidly wrong. They have resisted the rush to the overmighty centralised state when others have not. At key moments, when tough issues of press freedom have been at stake, they have been the first to rally in support. Above all, they believe in and stand for full, not semi-skimmed, electoral reform. And they have had a revelatory campaign. Trapped in the arid, name-calling two-party politics of the House of Commons, Nick Clegg has seldom had the chance to shine. Released into the daylight of equal debate, he has given the other two parties the fright of their lives.

Thank you, Guardian.

Welcome aboard.

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16 Comments

  • Martin Veart 30th Apr '10 - 7:15pm

    I was one of the many, many people to write in and urge them to take this course. I am glad that they listened.

    I dare say there are sound economic reasons for their decision too. The Guardian is an excellent paper but not one I have bought in recent years owing to their heavy pro-Labour scant. Come May 7th, could it be possible they are predicting that Labour may be in a position of power but no longer one supported by the votes?

  • Bill Kristol-Balls 30th Apr '10 - 7:54pm

    Am loving the grown up way many Labour-ites are taking the news.

  • Andrew Suffield 30th Apr '10 - 7:58pm

    Have to wonder to what extent this is a reaction to the revelations about Murdoch’s complete lack of impartiality.

  • Mark Inskip 30th Apr '10 - 8:30pm

    I am another of the 1500 or so that wrote in (via their website) and argued that they support the Lib Dems and for the reasons that they have given in their editorial.

    For the first time in 30 years of Guardian reading (since my early teens) I’m in agreement with the main message of their election editorial.

  • Joe Donnelly 30th Apr '10 - 8:38pm

    I have to say I am incredibly proud of the Guardian for doing this and for not just doing an evenly split Lab-Lib editorial, which I expected.

  • Terry Gilbert 30th Apr '10 - 9:35pm

    Excellent news! I’m a Lib Dem of 27 years, who just won a year’s subscription to The Guardian in their online competition. It starts Monday. Now I can read it enthusiatically! I might even BUY it tomorrow!!

  • Really, what difference does this make to anything?

  • Afterthought 30th Apr '10 - 10:11pm

    Will we get a similar Steve Bell cartoon endorsement?

    Or will he continue to not “get” Nick Clegg?

  • Painfully Liberal 30th Apr '10 - 10:39pm

    I think it’s pretty obvious that very few people will vote for a particular party because a newspaper told them to. On the other hand, I think it equally mistaken to imagine that such things have no influence before. People who are still deciding who to vote for (of whom one meets plenty on the doorstep) will be influenced by a great many factors and the endorsement by a newspaper whose editorial line they respect will be one of those. If nothing else people will read the article to see their reasons for the endorsement. It rehearses in a concise and persuasive way many of the reasons to support us.

  • George Kendall 1st May '10 - 12:23am

    This will have very little direct impact on voters, but it might have indirect impact, and it could be more important in the medium term.

    Journalists have accepted that we have a three-party system, for now. But imagine if somehow the Tories got enough seats to form a government with unionist support, Labour get fewer votes but more seats, and the Tories and Labour stitch up parliament to give Labour the position as Leader of the Opposition. I can see journalists gradually begin to backslide into ignoring the LibDems.

    If the Guardian has declared for us, they’ll be more publicly committed to exposing such a travesty.

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