There is a strange fascination with watching someone trying so desperately to be noticed that he strains every sinew to be so reasonable that he imagines himself as The Man On The Clapham Omnibus, but in reality getting everything wrong, so keen is he to cling on to straws – any straws – that bolster his argument. Welcome to the love-hate relationship between Dan Hodges and the Labour Party.
“Labour's shipwrecked survivors flee from the Lib Dem rescue ship” he declares today, suggesting that Mil The Younger can only enter 10 Downing Street next year if Corporal Clegg is “holding the door for him”. And there I was thinking that the key was Nigel “Thirsty” Farage and his band of self-destructing clowns at UKIP. Perhaps Dan forgot about them. So what is Miliband doing wrong?
“The reaction to Clegg’s entirely sensible overture tells you a lot about Miliband’s party. Firstly, it once again demonstrates that while Labour is good at political tactics, it hasn’t got a clue about political strategy”. Hello, the bullshit detector just went off. Who, pray, is the master strategist that Labour have on call? That would be Alastair Campbell. And Hodges says they ain’t got a clue about strategy.
But do go on: “A month ago the plan was to make deliberate public overtures to Nick Clegg. This morning it’s to treat him like he’s Typhoid Mary. All this does is confuse the voters, confuse Labour supporters and confuse Miliband’s own MPs”. Wrong again, Dan, all we are seeing is that the Labour Party is composed of individuals who are not always of identical view on any given subject.
Had everyone fallen into line behind the idea of being nicer to the Lib Dems, the likes of Hodges would be castigating Labour for being some kind of disturbing totalitarian organisation. In any case, as a good Blairite, he will know that we’ve been here before: Tone wanted to offer Paddy Ashdown a seat in his cabinet, only to find “Shagger” Prescott going apeshit at the prospect.
Nor is Dan’s electoral calculus less than shaky: “Current polling averages show the party clinging to a slender five-point lead. On that basis there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance of them winning an outright majority in 15 months' time”. The “Results Forecast” in the Telegraph – the paper hosting Hodges’ blog – shows, right now, Labour on course for 367 seats, a majority of 84.
Miliband and Clegg coming to some sort of accommodation – which might even mean Labour and Lib Dems giving the other clear runs in some constituencies – will be a long process. The Labour leader has so far picked his battles with great care, and has seen a mainly successful outcome. I would not bet against him doing the same in his approach to the Lib Dems. But it won’t happen overnight.
In any case, nobody in the party will be listening to Dan Hodges. No change there.