The Clegg Conundrum

It’s been interesting this last week to watch how the Lib Dem post-debate boost changes the narrative of the election. The Lib Dems have deserted Saint Vincent of Cable in their droves. They now have a new leader. Well, he’s been their leader for a while. But now they see him as leader. Poor Vince is back being someone’s sidekick. As a man with an ego the size of Wales, I imagine he’s not liking that very much.

Labour, other than saying Vote Clegg, get Cameron in a few leaflets haven’t seemed to take too much notice of the phenomenon yet. I’m sure, behind closed doors, there’s a lot of discussion about it. But, up to now at least, very little attacking of Clegg or the Libs. Let’s see how long that lasts if this boost doesn’t turn into a blip.

The Tories have gone into panic-mode. Cameron et al have started swinging to the right. Always the natural reaction of the Conservative party in crisis mode. Shore up the core vote. So they scrapped their planned PEB and replaced it with Cameron’s shoddy impression of Clegg’s impression of Cameron’s impression of Blair. It was the most saccharine Tory broadcast ever. And also totally rubbish. As well as that, they’ve launched yet another poster campaign. Again it’s designed for their core vote. Promoting a new Tory policy which is actually already an existing law.

The right-wing media have also gone into overdrive in attacking Clegg for his

Not a real Daily Mail story. But not far off

European ancestry, his banker father, his public school education, his multiple languages, and just about anything else they can find. It’s a little bit awe inspiring to see just how much vitriol the Daily Mail can pour out on one person.


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I’m not really worried about Nick Clegg. At least, not as worried as Team Cameron. What worries me is that while everyone is focussing on X-factor style personality contests, nobody is bothering with Liberal Democrat policies. Giles Wilkes from the Free-thinking economist blog produced the graph here which illustrates my point. People find Clegg interesting, but not his party. But you don’t get one without the other. If voting Clegg actually got us Clegg, what would his government want to do? And if people looked at policy, would Clegg be as popular as he is at the moment?

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  1. Regional immigration should go down very well in Tory/Lib marginals, it suggests moving immigrants *away* from the South East. Not that I agree with the policy but it is undoubtably a good idea for the South Eastern immigration haters.

    Plus the Euro is referendum only, they can put the question but the public get the say.

    But anyway, some things don’t play well with the public, but other things do. It’s about priority. Looking at the reactions last Thursday (and policy questioning in polls) people care less about the controversial issues if the ones like economy and political reform are answered properly.

    I fundementally disagree with this term “x-factorisation”, I find it hilarious that it has pervaded through the media without much scrutiny and is now being used willy nilly by non-Lib Dems. It’s purely an attack line used to attack the credibility of Nick Clegg, but worse to attack the public for why they are supporting him.

    Is that really the most sensible thing to do? To tell voters that you think they’re fickle and stupid? I think it’s doubly so when you factor in the majority of the Lib Dem bounce happened in response to the POLICY ANNOUNCEMENTS on Lib Dem manifesto launch day (which was also a slow day for other news).

  2. Hi Giles. Thanks for commenting. The point I was trying to make is that, as they seem to be picking up votes in Tory-LD marginals, I don’t think they’ll be as popular with a lot of voters. Pro-euro, regional immigration, prison reductions, etc, don’t play well with voters. I’m also more concerned with the ‘x-factorisation’ of the election in general. There’s a lot more focus on style and less on substance. Not great for the country.

  3. Actually, their policies are not bad. Certainly much more liberal than the others; willing to take brave stances on matters like prisons and immigration; and increasingly economically sound too.

    So there!

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