Pickles: Lib Dems should turn to the Tories

By Ian Dunt

The chairman of the Tories has used the eve of the Liberal Democrat conference to urge its members to “come home to the Conservative party”.

It is not the first time the new-look Conservatives under David Cameron have tried to attract the Lib Dem vote, but the timing of the announcement is being interpreted as a declaration of war between the two opposition parties.

Tory strategists are still concerned a resurgent performance from the Lib Dems could hinder their attempt to secure a big majority at the general election.

“If you are a Liberal Democrat voter, you have a very clear choice,” Mr Pickles said at a speech in London today.

“You could vote Liberal Democrat again – and vote for a party whose leader admitted yesterday that he is chasing the Labour party’s votes and shifting further away from the liberal centre-ground.

“That’s one option. Or, you could do something radical – something progressive. You could vote for real change.”

The speech also marks a further attempt to adopt the ‘progressive brand’ from Labour and the Lib Dems, who have traditionally monopolised the term.

Any strategy which focuses on replacing Labour seats from Lib Dem HQ could consolidate the Tory lead, by concentrating on picking up traditionally Labour voters.

Paradoxically, the Tories and Liberal Democrats are at war over their branding at the moment, with both parties laying claim to the progressive mantle.

Mr Pickles’ comments run in direct contrast to those of Danny Alexander, chief of staff to Nick Clegg, who told politics.co.uk voters were tired of both Labour and Conservatives.

“I think people look at the Conservative party and are completely unconvinced by a party that has no idea what it believes in, what motivates it, what its governing values and beliefs are,” he said.

Read the full interview here.

Commenting after Mr Pickles’ speech, Mr Alexander said Mr Pickles’ “flawed view of history” was matched only by his “arrogance”.

“People know that the Tories only offer fake change and that’s why they are choosing the Liberal Democrats as the only party that will force through the big changes our country needs,” he said.

“Frankly, I think that if Tory HQ has got this much spare time on their hands, they should be trying to come up with some better policies than upping the price of salad in the House of Commons and giving tax cuts to millionaires.”