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15 April 2010

Adonis ramps up appeal for Lib Dems to join Labour in keeping Tories out

Influential minister reiterates “identity of interest”.

By James Macintyre

Andrew Adonis, the Labour Transport Secretary who is influential with the Liberal Democrats thanks to his past membership of the SDP, has reiterated his crucial appeal for the two parties to accept their “identity of interest” and join forces to keep the Tories out of office.

Beginning his appeal in the Independent last week — in an article that had a major impact on the campaign — Adonis has now backed it up on the Guardian‘s Comment is Free site.

Here are some extracts:

Nick Clegg was unamused last week when I highlighted the strong identity of interest between the Lib Dems and Labour, and called on Lib Dems in Tory-Labour and Labour-Lib Dem marginals to back Labour on principle — rather than shoehorn the Tories into government.

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Yet everything that has happened since simply reinforces my argument, and makes ever more absurd the Lib Dem claim to be equidistant between Labour and the Conservatives. Issue by issue, during the first nine days of the campaign the Lib Dems have supported Labour against the Tories.

. . . And the Lib Dem manifesto takes Lab-Libbery to a whole new level of intensity.

“Fairness is an essential British value”, declares the Lib Dem manifesto. For anyone with eyes to read and a moment to think, the Lib Dem theme of “hard-wiring fairness into British society” comes from the same political stable as Labour’s pledge to a “future fair for all”. Both are social democratic programmes on a different philosophical page to David Cameron’s bid to force individuals to take responsibility for providing their own public services.

. . . The Lib Dems want radical political reform — so do we. Their manifesto pledges a fully elected Lords — so does ours. It pledges electoral reform for the Commons — ours promises a referendum for that purpose. It supports fixed-term parliaments — so does ours.

The Lib Dems are pro-European and want to work with our partners in Europe and internationally to secure a global deal on climate change, reform international financial regulation and tackle global poverty. So do we.

The Lib Dems want to support families, who in today’s world they recognise come in all shapes and sizes. Their priorities of supporting parental leave, flexible working and better child care are also our priorities.

On all of these issues where do the Tories stand?

Prioritising tax cuts over investment in public services. Opposing state intervention to create the new green industries of tomorrow. Undermining political reform every step of the way. Hostile to Europe. And on families, playing gesture politics with a £550m tax break for married couples.

So it is time for Nick Clegg to practice the political honesty which he preaches, and accept that he is in fact a social democrat who shares far more in common with Labour than the Tories. As Gordon Brown said at our manifesto launch: the future will be progressive or conservative, it will not be both.

This election is not a game. Its deadly seriousness is underlined by Nick Clegg’s statement that he would probably allow the largest party in a hung parliament to form a government, even if it were the Tories.

This makes it imperative that Labour wins every seat it can, including Labour-Lib Dem marginals, lest Clegg by default act as kingmaker to Cameron in a fit of absence of strategy.

Footnotes:

— The New Statesman‘s culture editor, Jonathan Derbyshire, blogged with characteristic brilliance about this yesterday.

— I have long argued that Clegg’s position of “equidistance” between the two other main parties is, though understandable for tactical reasons of preserving influence, in practice absurd.

— My colleague Mehdi Hasan informs me that at a debate last night with Tim Montgomerie, the influential Tory blogger was keen to portray a vote for the Lib Dems as a vote for Labour; a sign that the Tories are increasingly fearful of the Lib Dems and a possible Labour-Lib Dem alliance.