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Monday, March 15, 2010

Liberal Democrats on track

Interesting article by Michael White in today's Guardian following Nick Clegg's excellent speech to Conference yesterday (see below).

Mr. White believes that Clegg has left all his options open but ultimately there will be no coalition, just ad hoc support for a minority government. We will see. This is just one of many options and as Clegg said, it is not up to us but the voters:

Little wonder that Lib Dem activists who packed Birmingham's conference centre were in upbeat mood. When the old Liberals merged with the ex-Labour SDP in 1988 they touched bottom at 6% compared with 20%-ish today. "It's not inconceivable that we could emerge as the largest party," one MP, senior and sensible, murmured.

Dream on, perhaps. But Clegg said if they could only move from getting one vote in every four cast to winning one in three "we could lead the next government". When Labour won on 36% in 2005, Lib Dems deplored it, but they inhabit a largely irony-free zone. Besides, one of their four key "fairness" pledges is a fairer voting system.

Lib Dem strategists know distracting danger lurks in phrases like "hung parliament" and "electoral reform". The media loves pointless speculation, but voters are easily irritated by what looks irrelevant to many and self-interest to some. Holding the balance of power is a good place to be once the votes have been counted. It threatens to smother the policy message during the campaign.

Clegg's "I am not a kingmaker" formula, paraded all over the press, addressed this problem skilfully. It flattered voters and activists by telling them they "give the marching orders" while avoiding offence by leaning even slightly left or right. The party with the "strongest mandate from the voters will have the moral authority to be the first to seek to govern", he said.

Careful words which leaves options open. Clegg must know that the Tories are likely to have the most votes (in England they did in 2005) and, almost certainly, most seats. Whatever the polls and self-inflicted Cameroon idiocy suggest, most Labour MPs will be grateful for a narrow defeat, not a rout.

Yet yesterday's four "fairness" points all pointed left, in the direction of a less unequal society: a more progressive tax system; more money for education; a greener, fairer economy in which bankers know their place; and, of course, constitutional steam-cleaning.

It barely matters that Clegg's language caricatured rival parties in the corrosive language of the old politics he so deplores and raised expectations in similarly foolish, familiar fashion. The recession, the expenses scandal and a dysfunctional duopoly (are the Tories yet fit to govern?) conspire to enhance the Lib Dem talk of new pluralism for many voters.

'CentreForum, a liberal think-tank, predicted that divisions over policy would prevent Nick Clegg entering a formal coalition with Liberal Democrats sitting in a David Cameron Cabinet. But it concluded that the pressure on the third party to act responsibly in a hung parliament would result in Mr Clegg sustaining the Tories in power if they won the most seats – the general election outcome suggested by most recent opinion polls.'


'The parties have coalesced around an agenda of decentralisation, competition and choice in education and health.'

All taken from the Independent. Comfortable with this Peter? Do you believe for example that Welsh hospitals should be forced to compete with each other rather than cooperate? Are you going to support propping up a Tory government in Westminister?
Are these the actions of a so called left of centre party?
Comfortable with what. This is mindless speculation by an organisation that has no standing within the party. The Liberal Democrats is run by its members not by obscure think tanks. I might as well ask you if you are comfortable with speculation by the Daily Telegraph that Thatcher is to join the Labour Party. It is equally as bizarre. Complete nonsense.
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