Chris White writes: “We can be like Belgium!”

‘Will you be supporting the Liberal Democrat Candidate?’ I asked.

‘No.’

‘Any particular reason?’ I continued, hoping to get a clue as to his particular allegiance.

‘You sold out. I despise the Conservatives.’

‘What choice did we have? We had to have a Government.’

‘Why?’ he retorted. ‘Belgium doesn’t and they do all right.’

Belgium? Is this the best Labour can come up with?

I could have given him a tedious lecture about a country which has no fewer than seven parliaments (not including the European Parliament) and the nuances between the parliament of Wallonia and the parliament dealing with the francophone linguistic community. But I was in danger of boring myself.

(Bluntly, Belgium has shedloads of governments. The lack of a Federal government in Belgium is therefore manageable. England does not have a parliament or a government unless the UK provides it with one. So we had to go with the Tories – most of whom I too despise – because no other arithmetic worked. You know the rest.)

The only other pro-Labour argument I have heard on the doorstep is that the cuts may well be necessary (but not those affecting me) but should be done more slowly. This isn’t quantified but the estimate is that Labour were planning £14bn and the Coalition has delivered £16bn, although Labour have been a little quiet on this point. ‘It’s going to be bloody awful’ Vince Cable said at the Birmingham Special Conference. Alistair Darling may have said much the same (whatever happened to him, I wonder?).

And that’s it. But the oddity is that in the south (and I am for arcane reasons campaigning in two council areas over a hundred miles apart, one rural, one urban) there is no sign of a Labour revival. Good councillors are getting support. The Liberal Democrats are not a toxic brand although some of the rather unfair mud slung at Nick Clegg by the Labour Party is currently sticking.

Some people are quite rude but turn out to be largely Antis somehow able (despite Labour’s economic incompetence now being clear for all to see) to out themselves as Labour supporters.

And, as one colleague reminded me, it is actually a better experience on the doorstep than when we were all being blamed for the excesses of MPs’ expenses. No-one this year has said: ‘You’re all the same.’

People seem generally supportive of AV, although one Labour supporter assured me recently that ‘an AV referendum would never happen’ – the oddest comment so far this year.

With the Lib Dems being more obviously assertive on key issues like NHS reforms and banking – even if they are below the radar on the doorstep – 5 May could well turn out to be quite a worrying night for Labour.

And the Tories, for that matter.

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15 Comments

  • >But the oddity is that in the south

    On the subject of oddities: UKIP’s leaflet arrived through my letterbox today.
    Five bullet points. Presumably the main planks of their campaign in Wales.

    Stuff you’d expect on immigration.
    Then a rather random: “recycle, not incinerate’.

    I’m also invited to elect the English Democrats to the Welsh Assembly. And it isn’t even April 1 today 😉

  • @ Chris White (Or is it Dr Pangloss?)

    “5 May could well turn out to be quite a worrying night for Labour.”

    You sure about that? Latest You Gov: Labour 42%, Conservative 37%, Lib Dems 9%.

  • Will you be supporting the Liberal Democrat Candidate?’ I asked.

    ‘No.’

    ‘Any particular reason?’ I continued, hoping to get a clue as to his particular allegiance.

    ‘You sold out. I despise the Conservatives.’

    ‘What choice did we have? We had to have a Government.’

    ‘Why?’ he retorted. ‘Belgium doesn’t and they do all right.’

    Belgium? Is this the best Labour can come up with?

    Were you speaking to a Labour candidate or other person speaking on behalf of he Labour Party? Or just a Labour voter? It’s not clear. I’m sure you accept that the views of individual voters who may choose Labour do not reflect the views of the party and that the implication that they do was unintentional.

  • ‘The only other pro-Labour argument I have heard on the doorstep is that the cuts may well be necessary (but not those affecting me) but should be done more slowly.’

    And what positive arguments for voting Lib Dem or Conservative have you happened upon? Not getting at you by the way, just curious.

    ‘And that’s it. But the oddity is that in the south (and I am for arcane reasons campaigning in two council areas over a hundred miles apart, one rural, one urban) there is no sign of a Labour revival.’

    Interesting variance with the opinion polls there.

    ‘‘You sold out. I despise the Conservatives.’’

    You talk as if somehow this person is not entitled to this view. I happen to disagee with the sell-out part. But the blunt truth is that the Party is now closely associated with the Conservatives. The voters can make of that association whatever they want to – this just seems a bit close to, ‘how dare the voters take a view,’ and I didn’t like that undertone.

  • Looks like the “Dominic Carman” route is going mainstream in the Lib Dems – accuse anyone who hates your party of being bigoted and/or stupid, rather than just disliking the Coalition’s scapegoating of immigrants and benefit claimants, the attack on young people’s aspirations and the serial incompetence from this lot whenever they make a decision.

  • @George

    Don’t you mean Monmouthshire? Montgomeryshire is on the West Coast, so I doubt anyone there thinks they are English. Besdies Monmouthsire was only put into Wales indefinitely with the Local Government Act that Heath passed.

  • daft ha'p'orth 15th Apr '11 - 4:32pm

    To paraphrase the above: “I met a guy who disagreed with me, so he was obviously an avatar for the Labour party. Also, everybody who is rude is identifiable by the keen-minded as Labour supporters, are therefore obviously morons incapable of grasping the obvious, and may therefore be ignored.”

    Again I point out that political viewpoints may be relatively complex. It is very possible for a person to feel deep disagreement with all three of the major parties, and indeed many cannot find a single party that they’d touch with a barge pole. Over one in three are already de facto members of the “I hate you all too much to bother voting and/or I can’t be arsed” party. As well as being a sign of persecutory delusion, it’s profoundly unhelpful to perpetrate the suggestion that every single voter is either “with us” or they’re walking zombies controlled by The Voodoo Opposition. Or do you think British politics could be improved with more polarisation and tribalism?

  • Bookies are rarely wrong. The Liberal Democrats are in for a hiding in 3 weeks.

  • @Chris White

    Re-readin’ your spiel up there mate I’ve never seen anythin’ so blinkin’ patronisin’ since them there serciety ladies used ter cum dahn the old East End slummin’ and doin’ good fer the poor folks who didn’t understand wot there betters was a talkin’ abaht. Gawd bless yer guvernor, you are a real toff you are. And you’ve really got the common touch aint yer? If you wasn’t a Tory you’d get my vote mate and no blinkin’ mistake. AV? Well, ta very much mister. I ‘avent add a fag since the great crash!

  • ‘The only other pro-Labour argument I have heard on the doorstep is that the cuts may well be necessary (but not those affecting me) but should be done more slowly.’

    Broadly speaking, wasn’t that the Liberal Democrat policy at the last election?

  • Nicholas Lane 15th Apr '11 - 11:11pm

    @ chigsee

    Montgomeryshire on the West Coast – really?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montgomeryshire

  • Chris White. Your party did have a choice – “confidence and supply”, as advocated by Shirley Williams. Then perhaps the NHS wouldn’t be under threat of privatisation by stealth. But just like Clegg you aim most of your fire at Labour, not at the rabid right-wingers who your party is allowing to decimate the state for mainly ideological reasons.

    Don’t fool yourself, 5 May will be a disaster for the Lib Dems. Dominic Carman thought he was getting a good response in Barnsley, but the result showed otherwise. John Major was generally listened to politely in 1997, and the rest is history. When voters are really turned off, they won’t even bother to insult you.

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