Opinion: Yes, Labour really has given up on winning votes from the Conservatives

Labour anti-Nick Clegg videoI’m not fully signed up to the mockery for Labour’s recent TV and online films mocking Nick Clegg. Why? Because for all the naff content themselves, the broad message of them has been massively reported in the media, reaching a much wider audience than the films themselves.

I doubt that was a deliberate strategy as you can’t count on calibrating something to be just bad enough to get lots of coverage but not so bad as to sink under it. It’s a handy silver lining, however, especially as it diverted most criticism from the political strategy behind the attacks on the Liberal Democrats.

Labour’s target should be the Conservatives. It is Conservative seats the party needs to win. It is the Conservative’s lead on economic issues Labour needs to overcome. It is the public’s preference for David Cameron over Ed Miliband Labour needs to reverse.

Yet all through this Parliament, it has consistently failed to win over many voters from the Conservatives. As I pointed out in February last year, research by the Fabian Society shows only a tiny number of voters switching direct between Conservatives and Labour. It’s a pattern that has continued since then (for more of which, see Liberal Democrat Newswire #44).

Instead, Labour’s limited progress in the opinion polls since 2010 (limited to recovering from the depths of Gordon Brown to the not exactly dizzying heights of Tony Blair after Iraq) has been predominantly about the Lib Dem versus Labour tussle.

The problem for Labour is that tussle simply isn’t enough on its own for Labour to beat the Conservatives in a general election and come out with a decent majority of its own.

That’s the real story at the heart of Labour’s decision to go for the Lib Dems.

It’s a logical strategy. It may even be the best for Labour in its current circumstances. But it is also a highly defeatist strategy.

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