Exclusive: Douglas Alexander makes direct call for Lib Dems to lend their vote to Labour

Labour’s campaign co-ordinator joins Andrew Adonis in warning that a split in progressive ranks woul

Labour's national election co-ordinator, Douglas Alexander, has made a direct call for Liberal Democrats to lend their votes to Labour in marginal seats being fought over by Labour and the Conservatives.

Echoing the appeal at the beginning of the campaign by Andrew Adonis in the Independent, Alexander warns "progressive" voters who are disillusioned with the government that they would be "horrified if they woke up on 7 May and realised that their vote for the Lib Dems contributed to Cameron standing on the steps of Downing Street".

This contest "is a moment of great peril and great possibility for progressives", Alexander says. Re-electing Labour "would lead to a fundamental crisis of the Conservative Party and on the right of British politics. It would herald a new dawn for Labour and progressive politics."

But he adds, in an interview with the New Statesman: "If, however, the centre-left vote was to be split in seat after seat, we would be looking at the very real possibility of a majority Conservative government on 7 May. That is why I am determined in the final days of the campaign that we send a clear and unequivocal message that this election will be determined in large part by what happens in about a hundred Labour-Conservative marginal seats. My direct appeal to voters in constituencies across the country would be to vote for the party that can open up politics and advance an agenda for fairness. And that party is the Labour Party."

In a direct appeal to liberal-minded voters, he says: "I know that there are voters, New Statesman readers, some of them my friends, who are angry about Iraq, anxious on Afghanistan and concerned about civil liberties. But I also know that they would be horrified if they woke up on 7 May and realised that their vote for the Lib Dems contributed to Cameron standing on the steps of Downing Street."

Alexander goes on: "I believe that to maximise Labour's vote in this election and to maximise Labour's seats after this election is the surest way to defeat the Conservative Party and to herald a new dawn for Labour and progressive politics. But the risks are real and our message is clear: If you vote Clegg, you could end up with Cameron in any Labour seat on 6 May.

"It has been clear from his public comments the hostility that Nick Clegg feels towards Labour and our leader . . . so we must send a clear and unequivocal signal that the risk is real for those voters who may have doubts or concerns about Labour but are determined to avoid a Conservative government, that if they vote Liberal Democrat in those seats, they will end up with the very real risk of having delivered the keys to Downing Street to David Cameron.

"There are many who have voted Labour in the past, who face an important decision on 6 May. My clear appeal to them would be to deny the keys of Downing Street to David Cameron and to vote Labour to ensure a progressive future for Britain."

Alexander takes a further swipe at Nick Clegg, who, Labour's campaign co-ordinator claims, has "an apparent sense of entitlement" about becoming prime minister. The International Development Secretary says: "Clegg's made a big error of judgement in spending so much time in recent days talking about his own job prospects and so little time talking about the job prospects of millions of employees, workers and voters across the country.

"The economy is central to this election, and I think people are more concerned with what happens to their family and to their future than to Nick Clegg's apparent sense of entitlement."

These are excerpts from a wide-ranging interview. More extracts, on different subjects, including the TV debates and the media, will be posted on this blog. A piece on the interview appears in the next issue of the New Statesman magazine, out on Thursday.

Trancription by Ian Smith.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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By refusing to stand down, Jeremy Corbyn has betrayed the British working classes

The most successful Labour politicians of the last decades brought to politics not only a burning desire to improve the lot of the working classes but also an understanding of how free market economies work.

Jeremy Corbyn has defended his refusal to resign the leadership of the Labour Party on the grounds that to do so would be betraying all his supporters in the country at large. But by staying on as leader of the party and hence dooming it to heavy defeat in the next general election he would be betraying the interests of the working classes this country. More years of Tory rule means more years of austerity, further cuts in public services, and perpetuation of the gross inequality of incomes. The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Seema Malhotra, made the same point when she told Newsnight that “We have an unelectable leader, and if we lose elections then the price of our failure is paid by the working people of this country and their families who do not have a government to stand up for them.”

Of course, in different ways, many leading figures in the Labour movement, particularly in the trade unions, have betrayed the interests of the working classes for several decades. For example, in contrast with their union counterparts in the Scandinavian countries who pressurised governments to help move workers out of declining industries into expanding sectors of the economy, many British trade union leaders adopted the opposite policy. More generally, the trade unions have played a big part in the election of Labour party leaders, like Corbyn, who were unlikely to win a parliamentary election, thereby perpetuating the rule of Tory governments dedicated to promoting the interests of the richer sections of society.

And worse still, even in opposition Corbyn failed to protect the interests of the working classes. He did this by his abysmal failure to understand the significance of Tory economic policies. For example, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had finished presenting the last budget, in which taxes were reduced for the rich at the expense of public services that benefit everybody, especially the poor, the best John McConnell could do – presumably in agreement with Corbyn – was to stand up and mock the Chancellor for having failed to fulfill his party’s old promise to balance the budget by this year! Obviously neither he nor Corbyn understood that had the government done so the effects on working class standards of living would have been even worse. Neither of them seems to have learnt that the object of fiscal policy is to balance the economy, not the budget.

Instead, they have gone along with Tory myth about the importance of not leaving future generations with the burden of debt. They have never asked “To whom would future generations owe this debt?” To their dead ancestors? To Martians? When Cameron and his accomplices banged on about how important it was to cut public expenditures because the average household in Britain owed about £3,000, they never pointed out that this meant that the average household in Britain was a creditor to the tune of about the same amount (after allowing for net overseas lending). Instead they went along with all this balanced budget nonsense. They did not understand that balancing the budget was just the excuse needed to justify the prime objective of the Tory Party, namely to reduce public expenditures in order to be able to reduce taxes on the rich. For Corbyn and his allies to go along with an overriding objective of balancing the budget is breathtaking economic illiteracy. And the working classes have paid the price.

One left-wing member of the panel on Question Time last week complained that the interests of the working classes were ignored by “the elite”. But it is members of the elite who have been most successful in promoting the interests of the working classes. The most successful pro-working class governments since the war have all been led mainly by politicians who would be castigated for being part of the elite, such as Clement Atlee, Harold Wilson, Tony Crosland, Barbara Castle, Richard Crossman, Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey, Tony Blair, and many others too numerous to list. They brought to politics not only a burning desire to improve the lot of the working classes (from which some of them, like me, had emerged) and reduce inequality in society but also an understanding of how free market economies work and how to deal with its deficiencies. This happens to be more effective than ignorant rhetoric that can only stroke the egos and satisfy the vanity of demagogues

People of stature like those I have singled out above seem to be much more rare in politics these days. But there is surely no need to go to other extreme and persist with leaders like Jeremy Corbyn, a certain election loser, however pure his motives and principled his ambitions.

Wilfred Beckerman is an Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and was, for several years in the 1970s, the economics correspondent for the New Statesman