Has it really been a month since I last blogged? It would appear so. I really ought to say something about my reading tour south (for two days) with Andrew Philip, but that will have to wait until tomorrow, at least.
On Thursday, there are elections for the Scottish parliament. My constituency, Edinburgh West, is normally a safe Lib Dem seat, one in which no one would seriously expect an upset. But these are not ordinary times. I was surprised to get a letter posted by hand through my letterbox this morning – a handwritten envelope with my name on it. Inside was a letter from my Lib Dem MSP, Margaret Smith, asking for my vote.
The letter suggests that the key challenge in Edinburgh West comes from Labour. The Conservatives can’t win, she says, and many people are backing the Lib Dems to stop Labour from winning the seat. So the idea of the letter, it appears to me, is to persuade Conservative voters to vote Lib Dem to keep Labour out.
But wait a minute! The results of the last election tell a different story. The Lib Dems won with a handsome majority. But in second place were the SNP, not Labour! It seems obvious to me that the SNP are the main challengers in Edinburgh West and that this letter shows how desperate the Lib Dems are. They do face annihilation in Scotland, and many previous Lib Dems have switched to the SNP since the Lib Dems’ betrayal of voters in Westminster, entering into a coalition with the Conservatives.
So the tactic of the letter is to presume people aren’t going to check the result of the last election and will assume that the SNP aren’t in the picture for Edinburgh West. Conservatives reading the letter might vote Lib Dem to keep Labour out, and tactical voters might vote Labour if they are too lazy to have done their research.
The letter is a clever tactic, but... it doesn’t seem quite right to me. It seems to me like the kind of thing Nick Clegg would do, the kind of thing that’s going to see the Lib Dems wiped out in this election. I hope voters in Edinburgh West come to a similar conclusion.
***Edit: and indeed they have! The SNP have taken the seat from the Lib Dems. I must admit, even I am just a little surprised, but it goes to show - if you treat the electorate like idiots, as people who are too stupid to check the implications you make to them in a letter, they will treat you as you deserve.