Jo Swinson, Photo: Flickr/Liberal Democrats. Boris Johnson, Photo: Flickr/Financial Times Jo Swinson, Photo: Flickr/Liberal Democrats. Boris Johnson, Photo: Flickr/Financial Times

The Lib Dems admitting they would prop up a Boris Johnson-led Tory government should end all talk of tactical voting, argues Chris Nineham

Overshadowed by all the discussion about the leaders’ TV debate and the Labour manifesto, something happened on Wednesday night which should be a gamechanger in the election.

On Robert Peston’s programme, and again on Andrew Neil’s, the Lib Dem deputy leader Ed Davey made it clear that if the Tories fail to get an overall majority in the election, the Lib Dems would be open to working with a Johnson-led minority government on condition that Johnson would back a second referendum.

In case anyone was in any doubt, this confirms assurances from the Lib Dem leadership that they would under no circumstances assist Corbyn getting into number 10.

This policy would enable what would probably turn out to be the most right wing government since at least Thatcher, a government headed up by an open racist who models himself on Trump. It would be likely to facilitate the kind of hard right Brexit that the Lib Dems claim to be so implacably against. It would of course also scupper the potential for a progressive government under Corbyn’s leadership.

These simple facts need to spread far and wide. After this announcement tactical voting for “progressives” – always a delusional option – should be regarded as dead in the water.

But this announcement should also finish off any lingering sense that the Lib Dems are any kind of alternative to the Tories. Their political positions are not even being determined, as they claim, by their desire to remain in the EU. If that were the case then an agreement with Labour would be the rational choice as the bulk at least of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the cabinet is for staying in the EU.

Ed Davey’s statement is proof that the left has been 100% correct to say that the Lib Dems are yellow Tories. Historically they are the heirs of the Whigs and later the Liberal Party, the second great party of the British ruling class which has always backed the sanctity of private property, profits and the free market. Now it is explicit that alignment with Tory politics remains the decisive factor in their political choices, over and above all other considerations.

We must never let them pose as progressives again.

Chris Nineham

Chris Nineham is a founder member of Stop the War and Counterfire, speaking regularly around the country on behalf of both. He is author of The People Versus Tony Blair and Capitalism and Class Consciousness: the ideas of Georg Lukacs.