.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A big opportunity for the Liberal Democrats

This morning's Independent seems to have been put together on a theme - love bomb the Liberal Democrats. It is something we have become used to from the increasingly unsure leaders of Labour and the Conservatives but it must be a first from a national newspaper.

First off is Steve Richards, who uses his column to explain why the Liberal Democrats' hour has come. He sets out a number of reasons:

1. The most important change comes in the form of the mighty opinion polls, those trackers of fickle opinion that determine the political mood. Several polls point to a hung parliament. For now it does not matter whether such polls prove to be right on election night. Their significance is in their impact on the current situation. They give the Liberal Democrats an apparent importance that a thousand speeches from their leader or the revered Vince Cable cannot deliver. From seeming marginal, Clegg becomes a potential player, a leader with troops who could make a difference.

2. Cameron's policies are finally coming under a degree of scrutiny: the rootless, focus group driven oscillations in relation to their plans for "tax and spend"; the unreformed Euroscepticism; and the wider contradictory objectives. Suddenly the unquestioned common assumption that Cameron has moved his party on to the centre ground is being questioned a little. Or at least there is recognition that this untested, inexperienced political leader moves his party to the centre and then back to the right on a regular basis. As a result of such insecure manoeuvring, space opens up for the third party.

3. The fact that Brown is well behind in the polls persuaded him to back televised debates with the party leaders, another potential gift to the Liberal Democrats. Clegg will be the first Liberal Democrat leader in the party's short history to reach a huge television audience. I bumped into David Owen the other day who told me how such an opportunity would have been a dream for him when he was leader of the SDP in the 1987 election and an extremely authoritative media performer.

4. Brown has given one other gift to Clegg in the form of the Iraq Inquiry. Indeed Brown's pre-election appearance is the consequence of a question from the Liberal Democrats' leader. Almost certainly most voters are not following the Inquiry with the same intensity as parts of the media, which report developments that are seven years old as if they are breaking news. Even so senior Labour figures are rightly worried that the Inquiry is a daily reminder of the greatest foreign policy calamity since Suez and one that vividly brings to life the wider flaws of the New Labour project and its crusading timidity.

He continues: These recent developments give Clegg some room to breathe, which is the best a Liberal Democrat leader can hope for. They shape a context which is more propitious in some ways than the one in which Paddy Ashdown operated when Blair could have swallowed the Lib Dems alive, and almost as good as the one Charles Kennedy enjoyed after he had been vindicated over the war. and concludes:

But in the build-up to the election Clegg's pro-European, anti-Westminster, redistributive liberalism gives him an authentic and distinctive voice. At least he knows his voice will be heard when not so long ago it seemed as if he'd be drowned out by the clamour of the two bigger parties. We will have to wait and see whether he will take it, but he has a chance.

And then there is the leading article which offers three cheers for the Liberal Democrats on the basis of our pledge to each poor child a pupil premium of £2,500:

If we are serious about reducing inequality – and there are good economic arguments for doing so, as the Conservatives acknowledge too – we should support this policy. It is a big public spending commitment but it should be achievable and its benefits are clear. Ensuring that more children do better in GCSEs will ensure that more people from disadvantaged families go to university, as last week's Higher Education Funding Council report showed.

In the light of this sort of coverage, the General Election cannot come quick enough.
I agree - if only we could get the same sort of coverage from other newspaper's rather than just the Indy it would be great!
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?