The Liberal Democrats – an apology

April 18, 2010

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Earlier in the week, I wrote of the Liberal Democrats’ election literature, that it says “that ‘in many areas’ only the Lib Dems can beat Labour. It tries to give the impression that I am in one of those areas, without being so dishonest as to actually say so.”

Possibly they were stung by my remarks into stepping up their dishonesty, because I got a leaflet yesterday claiming outright “It’s a two horse race here – the Conservatives can’t win in Luton South.”

If I wanted to know about horse races, I would, as the Labour and Conservative parties did, look at what the bookmakers were saying, and they do indeed have the “can’t win” Conservatives as odds-on favourites, and the Liberal Democrats as fourth-place outsiders, behind even Esther Rantzen.

I wouldn’t criticise the LDs for claiming they have a chance when impartial observers say they don’t, but when they claim that the odds-on favourites can’t win – why should any intelligent observer believe a word they say about anyone else?

There is a slight moral conundrum. Tactical voting, like other coordination games, can exhibit self-fulfilling prophesies. If the Lib Dems can lie well enough that they are bound to beat the Conservatives, it would become true, as tactical anti-Labour voters who believed them would vote for them. So if they do come third or fourth, will their offence be that they lied, or that they didn’t lie enough?