Your lovebomb is a dud.

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Over the weekend we had the pleasure of watching Liberal leader Nick Clegg (pictured at Conference) trying to woo Green voters over to his brand of neoliberalism and "savage cuts". As you might imagine, this isn't an argument that holds a lot of appeal around here.

Taking it at face value, shouldn't he should be attacking Labour or the Tories instead? If you're claiming, however absurdly, to be as green as the Greens, those two parties have plenty of egregiously anti-environmental achievements to criticise first.

When the initial outrage at Clegg's approach faded, it reminded me of the old cliché: first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. 

Are we in phase three already, from the Liberal perspective? The evidence around the world certainly is that Liberal parties (other than explicitly right-wing ones like the FDP) decline as Greens grow.

But of course it's not even about picking up actual Green voters. There's no-one out there who's decided to back the Greens but who somehow never considered voting for what a friend calls "the shark-infested custard". Those votes aren't coming back this side of some unimaginable Green implosion.

What this type of "lovebombing" really says is "I am more like them than you think". Clegg himself came under similar but more plausible pressure from Dave Cameron on the same day. As Jim Jay puts it, "should we then pick on someone smaller than us and attempt a similarly vacuous courtship?

In Cameron's case it's a good message because he knows the Liberals are, fairly or unfairly, seen as cleaner than the Tories. And here you will find me agreeing with Dave: there is indeed barely a cigarette paper between the Tories and the Liberals on many of the major issues he raises, so you can see why he's doing it. It's also a version of the irksome Lib Dem barchart-type squeeze on their votes.

In Clegg's case, he and Vince want to take the party to the right but don't want to pay the price for doing so. Appearing to cosy up to the Greens therefore shores up his left flank internally. It's those who might come over to the Greens over the next year he's really worried about, people who can't swallow the kind of Orange Book dogma that leads Vince to want to part-privatise Royal Mail.

If this kind of approach was a real attempt to squeeze other parties' votes, then the BNP would surely find themselves a prime target. All the other parties object to their vote growing, so they say, even if Labour and the Liberals apparently preferred to see Griffin win than see a Green MEP returned in the Northwest.

Imagine for a second any other party making an explicit appeal to BNP supporters in the same way, though. It won't happen, because the message it sends is "we're a bit more neo-Nazi than you think". Not even UKIP want to get down and dirty like that. Instead the three parties of the soggy Westminster consensus just give the infamous dog whistle an occasional blow, even the Liberals, sometimes

Incidentally, the BBC also got a failing mark during this weekend's shenanigans. Their web team posted an article saying "Green Leader Nick Clegg blah blah blah" (saved for posterity here, now updated here). 

No thanks. If he has a road-to-Damascus conversion to true Green politics, though, I'm sure my friends down south would be happy to take him as a member.


heartening and not a bit amusing to see the yellow bellies get garroted by the Scottish Greens.

very disheartened to read this yesterday about the brothers and sisters across the water:

"first they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win"

Is that a cliche? If it is, never mind - we're too hung up on everything having to be bright shiny new, these modern days. Proverbs and cliches generally, like this, contain a whole lot of folk wisdom we might be needing.

Interesting post. Unfortunately, trying to make sense of the Lib Dems is like jelly wrestling, only less pleasurable.

Actually, I've never tried jelly-wrestling. I'll take that as a recommendation!

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This page was published on September 22, 2009 4:49 PM.

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