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Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Clegg conundrum

It is just eleven days until we go to vote in the European elections. The low turnout in these elections amongst those who go to the polling station in person most probably means that the majority of those who will vote have already done so.

The opinion polls do not look good for the Liberal Democrats, but as ever, we are at heart optimists (we have to be) and we will wait to see what happens on the night before drawing any conclusions. Nevertheless, commentators have already started to speculate on the future of Nick Clegg, not least in today's Observer column from Andrew Rawnsley.

As Rawnsley says, Nick Clegg has survived one poll disaster after another because our MPs all signed up to coalition. It was approved three times over: at a meeting of Liberal Democrats MPs and peers, with a vote of the Federal Executive, and at a special conference in Birmingham. In addition most MPs are enjoying being in government and respect Clegg for getting them there.

Finally, many are clinging to the idea that the party is more resilient than pollsters give them credit for and that the power of incumbency in 2015 will defy the odds. This has been bolstered by the result of the Eastleigh by-election which reinforced Nick Clegg's position as leader.

Andrew Rawnsley though thinks time may be running out for the Liberal Democrats Leader:

In the postmortem of these contests, it is inevitable that questions will be asked about the wisdom of Mr Clegg's decision to challenge Nigel Farage to TV debates. It was a high-risk move born of desperation, but I could understand his reasoning. The hope was that it would raise the Lib Dems' profile and garner some extra support by projecting themselves as the one unambiguously pro-European party with the guts to stand up to Ukip. That was the theory. The hard truth for Lib Dems, which some of the Clegg team will privately acknowledge, is that the debates went badly for their leader and the effect was counter-productive. The post-debate polls awarded victory to the Ukip leader by margins that exceeded the Lib Dems' fears. It was Nigel Farage who drew most benefit from the additional exposure.

In his time of trial, Nick Clegg shouldn't look to David Cameron to help him. Earlier in this parliament, the prime minister had an interest in preserving the Lib Dem leader; anything that threatened to collapse the coalition was scary to the Tory leadership. But now that the economy is recovering, a premature end to the coalition, even if it meant an earlier than expected general election, no longer holds such terrors for the Tories. If there were a period of minority Conservative government, many of them would positively welcome that. There are some Tory strategists who think the fall of Mr Clegg would serve their electoral interests. Says one: "One of the best things that could happen for the Conservative party is for Clegg to be knifed." His replacement as leader by a Lib Dem who might have more appeal to leftish voters would, they calculate, leach support from Labour.

It is possible that many will calculate after May 22nd that the only way to reverse Liberal Democrats' fortunes in the polls and rescue the party at the General Election is to put the likes of Vince Cable in charge. They may well be right. What actually happens though will depend on the electorate, but more importantly on the reaction of Liberal Democrats MPs to the results.
I was umming and ahhing about voting as I believe [even if a bit confused at the moment] or voting in some way tactically and then I saw this http://www.partyofwales.org/news/2014/05/08/plaid-leader-welcomes-lib-dem-endorsement/
Amy Kitcher suggesting Green and Lib Dem votes would be best used if used for Plaid Cymru.
Wondered what your thoughts are on this. Both in terms of would it make any differerence and ought people to vote in a tactical manner.
Of course I do understand if you'd rather leave the subject well alone!
My thoughts are that Amy's position is misconceived. The polls show that two of the seats almost certain to be won on 22 May will go to Labour and UKIP. The other two will be between Labour, Plaid Cymru, Conservative and the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

I do not see how voting Plaid will stop another UKIP seat as that is unlikely anyway. On the other side of this argunment I would argue that a pro-European vote should not go to Plaid Cymru in the first place.

Their policy of an independent Wales would lead to us ceasing to be part of the EU. The Liberal Democrats are also part of a bigger group in the European Parliament and have more influence than Plaid Cymru.

My recommendation is that any body who wants to see us remain part of a reformed EU has only one home, the Liberal Democrats.
Although I am not a LibDem voter I feel so sorry that all this is going on with your Party as you are one of the best Councilors that Swansea has. You could certainly teach the Swansea majority a thing or to.
From Cyndy A Westbrook....nonanon
Peter, I don't have the constitution to hand, but do the European Parliament elections count as an event which could trigger a challenge to the leadership?
Thanks for your thoughts.
Labour dropped a lot of votes in 2009. But not seen anything of recent polls. Ultimately I think it is best to vote in the way that you think is right.
I don't think now would be the time based on this election, to consider a change of leadership for any party.
Nick Clegg is our best leader and the right man for the job.

He lost in the European Parliament election debate with Farage because of weak arguments. Instead of promoting Lib Dem policies about reform of the EU and localism he gave the impression that Lib Dems are in the EU unconditionally.

Our Lib Dem MEPs have been captured by Brussels and become EU fanatics.

Liberals have always promoted free trade and free markets as the best policies, they were never meant to be only within the EU at expense of free trade with the Commonwealth, the USA or China.

Keep Clegg but change the message about the EU in time for the general election.
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