POLITICS

Convincing Labour Supporters To Vote Tactically 'Difference Between Winning And Losing', Says Lib Dem MP

18/02/2014 09:43 GMT | Updated 18/02/2014 09:59 GMT
Paul Rogers/WPA-Rota
(Left to right) Labour Leader Ed Miliband, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Prime Minister David Cameron during the Step Up to Serve launch at Buckingham Palace, central London.

Labour supporters should vote tactically in favour of the Liberal Democrats in order to prevent the Conservatives gaining seats at the next election, a leading Lib Dem MP has said.

In an interview with The Huffington Post UK, Lorely Burt, who narrowly lost the ballot to become Lib Dem deputy leader last month, said the party strategy at the next election would be to persuade Labour voters to focus on preventing the Tories from snatching marginal seats.

"I think when you stand for parliament you don’t stand as a coalition. Lib Dems have their own policies and platform which they will be standing on," she said.

Burt added: "What we also need to do is talk to Labour supporters, who have lent us their vote in the past, to keep the Conservatives out. Because the message is stronger now than ever. In places like Solihull, you’ve got a small Labour vote but it will make the difference between winning and losing."

The Solihull MP, who is parliamentary aide to chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, was elected in 2010 with a majority of just 175 over the rival Conservative candidate.

Of the 20 most marginal Lib Dems seats, 14 are Lib Dem-Tory marginals. Just six are Lib-Lab marginals.

Burt said the Lib Dems would target traditional Labour voters in Lib Dem-Conservative marginals like her own by emphasising how the junior coalition partner had a record of "tackling disadvantage at the lower end of the economic spectrum".

For the strategy to work, Lib Dem MPs will have to hope the desire of left-leaning voters to stop Conservative candidates being elected is greater than their desire to punish Nick Clegg for joining the coalition with David Cameron.

Addressing her own campaign to convince Labour supporters to vote for her in order to stop a Conservative MP being elected in her place, she said: "I’ve still got to win those over."

On the other side of the fence, Burt said the Lib Dems would equally target "soft Conservatives" who were unhappy with Cameron's rhetoric on some issues.

"I think a lot of conservatives find the general sort of hardness of the Conservative Party, the lack of concern for the most vulnerable, a little bit distasteful. The Lib Dems bring them the best of both worlds we’ve got the economic responsibility we understand about how the economy works but we’ve also got that injection of fairness," she said.

On Monday, Nick Clegg talked explicitly about the possibility of of a Lib-Lab coalition after the 2015 election. He told the BBC that he thought Labour had "changed" and was now willing to share power with his party.

"I think there's nothing like the prospect of reality in an election to get politicians to think again and the Labour Party, which is a party unused to sharing power with others, is realising that it might have to," he said.

However Ed Miliband responded to the intervention by insisting he was working to secure "a majority Labour government" and talked down the prospect of a pact.

And today The Sun reported that far from warming to Clegg, Labour was "pouring resources" in to the deputy prime minister's Sheffield Hallam constituency in an attempt to overturn his 15,200 majority and kick him out of parliament in 2015.

In the full interview with The Huffington Post UK, Lorely Burt also speaks about how it would have helped the party to elected a female deputy leader (and why she was disappointed to have lost), the fallout from the Lord Rennard scandal, the Lib Dem strategy for the next election and how Ukip has been useful in polarising the debate.