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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Liberal Democrats lose their heads in face of polling presure

If there is one thing you can say about the Liberal Democrats without fear of contradiction it is that we are stubborn beggars who will do our own thing regardless of the consequences. There are times when to the outside observer that appears to be pointless masochism.

Faced with declining poll ratings and problems with trust, the obvious thing to do is to put up our most popular politicians to front the election campaign, especially those who are instinctively trusted by the electorate and who are perceived to have integrity and principle.

Unfortunately, the leadership do not seem to seen it that way, certainly if the Telegraph is to be believed. The paper says that Vince Cable will not be called upon to be the “face” of Lib Dem financial policy during the forthcoming general election campaign. Instead, Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will go toe-to-toe with George Osborne, the Chancellor.

Apparently this is all to do with those around Nick Clegg, the 'kindergarten' as they are known in some circles, wanting to put Vince Cable 'back in his box'. You have to wonder if these advisors ever talk to real people, or get out on the streets campaigning, because they are not just out of touch with the party but with the electorate as well.

Nick Clegg, who does meet and talk with voters all the time and understands their concerns and needs, should ignore these advisors and keep Vince Cable where he can be the most benefit to the party, speaking on the economy.
You will pleased to hear Peter that I keeping a very level head (mainly because I am sure that Mark Williams will be re-elected). What I think everyone else is worried about is this. A polling rating for the Lib Dems of 8%, seven months out from a general election has happened on the following occasions in September 1951, April 1955 (ahead of elections that let's be honest, the Lib Dems did not do very well at) and October 1989 (just a few months after the 1989 Euros) so a little panic is bound to happen, but you are right overall. Calm heads are needed (and only with calm heads can some very difficult decisions be made)
In fairness, I wouldn't have expected the Lib Dems to do well in elections in the 1950s. One key reason for their lack of success was probably the fact that the Lib Dems didn't exist before 1988.
Calm is always better than panic. But what is going on is that lethal combination of panic and not changing anything.

I'm not sure that Harry referencing 1951 and 1955 as past precdents is going to be much encouragement though.

1989 was a lot further away from the General Election - and crucially there was still a reasonably strong base in the party. The 89 Euros were a bit sui generis - the County elections a few weeks before had been a relatively decent set of results (alongside polling and expectations) and were followed by a similarly decent results in 1990.

The issue for the party then was relevance - something which slowly got put right in local elections and spectacularly put right at Eastbourne and Ribble Valley.

The issues now are very very different.
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