Won’t this encourage more switching to the Tories?
Whether this is a fair report or not we will have to wait and see but BBC News is suggesting that today’s speech to the Lib Dem Harrogate conference by the leader, Ming Campbell, “sent out the strongest signal yet that he wants a power sharing deal with Labour after the next general election.”
Missing from the list of items which the party would want is a electoral reform and the report quotes a “senior official” as saying that such a requirement would not longer be a “a deal breaker”.
But how dangerous a move is this for Ming? For the voters that he is trying to keep on board at the moment are those that might be termed “liberal conservatives” who could be scared off by talk of deal with Labour and Gordon?
You have to ask whether the old strategy of never committing either way was by far better than this apparent new route which could simply alienate a key segment of voters.
There another reason why today’s Ming’s speech could be dangerous – one of the great opportunities for the party next time will be in encouraging Tories in LAB>LD marginals to vote tactically thus helping to hold on to the gains from Labour from 2005 and helping in other seats.
You have to ask whether Campbell is looking at the national scene too much from the perspective of Edinburgh and Scotland – where, of course, the Tories have become an endangered species.
A challenge the party has, particularly in Southern England, is that the councillors and activists tend to be much more left wing than many of those who vote Lib Dem and who came over to the party towards the end of the Thatcher years when the Conservatives appeared “nasty”.
Whatever talking in these terms is going into dangerous territory.
UPDATE 1630. BBC Online has changed its headline on the story to “Sir Menzies sets tests for Brown” and has added this paragraph. “But in a sign of disagreement within Sir Menzies’ inner circle over the party’s position, his chief of staff Ed Davey told BBC News 24 he “did not recognise” the source of the story, adding “I briefed the leader’s speech and I didn’t say that”.” The latter is a reference to the extensive quote from a “senior official” in the BBC story about the party not making PR the sticking point.