Less than a week in, and things are already getting weird. On Wednesday, I argued that “we should forget any thought of differential protest voting … [trying] to identify the real Blairites and punish them accordingly”. On Friday morning I read that the New Statesman had published a weird article listing 35 Blairite Labour MPs (plus 12 Blairite parliamentary candidates) who would be vulnerable to non-Tory tactical voting, and advising its readers to vote against them. Or, er, to vote for them. But not to stay at home, anyway:
All that said, the only sure way to keep the Tories out is to vote Labour. The NS offers this guide in a spirit of public service. We do not recommend anti-Blair tactical voting – but it is better than staying at home and not voting at all.
There’s an odd whiff of Prisoner’s Dilemma about this: it reads like the result of a deal between Labour loyalists and anti-Blairites at the Statesman. It’ll suit one group if we vote for Labour candidates and the other group if we vote against them; the one thing they can agree on is that they don’t want us to abstain.
Then I read Paul Anderson’s reaction to the New Statesman‘s cunning plan. Paul’s agin it, on the grounds that the hitlist includes “some of Labour’s best”. In which category he specifically includes John “friend of Radovan” Reid and Charles Clarke. Yes, that Charles Clarke. Speaking as a socialist and a libertarian, I wouldn’t feel any compunction about voting against Charles Clarke – in fact, I can’t imagine voting for him unless the only alternatives were Alan Clark, Petula Clark, Ronald Stark and Mark Park, and even then I’d have to think about it. If this is “democratic socialism with a libertarian punch”, Paul, I’d hate to catch you on an authoritarian day.
In the evening, things got weirder still. Remember the line I quoted from John Lanchester back here, about the possibility of the Conservatives making one final last-ditch move to the Right, in the form of “an open appeal (as opposed to coded ones) to the Tony Martin/Enoch Powell vote”? Well, the Conservatives have unveiled two new posters, continuing their theme of “are you tired of pretending not to be an evil selfish bastard?”. One says, “The law should protect me, not burglars”. The other says, “It’s time to put a limit on immigration”. Looks like we’re further down the track than I thought.
Friday April 8th: the day the election went mad.