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Monday, April 19, 2010

Nick Clegg: How far can he-or his party- go?

This piece of mine appears in today’s First Post.

Neil Clark: We could soon reach a tipping-point where Lib Dems are no longer just nice-guy losers

A week is a long time in politics, Harold Wilson once famously remarked. After the dramatic impact of last Thursday's live television debate between the three main party leaders, we can say that the late Labour Prime Minister was far too cautious in his judgment. One night is enough.

Before the debate, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was the clear third choice of the British electorate. Now he is a man rivalling Winston Churchill in the popularity stakes, with his party having the most popular support in a general election campaign for the first time since the year of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the launching of the Lusitania.

The question is: how far can the man of the moment - and his party - go? Could we actually be on the brink of seeing Liberals holding Cabinet posts in a peace-time government in Britain for the first time since the days of the national government of the 1930s - or even be about to witness the first government led by a Liberal politician since 1922?

You can read the rest of the article here.


vladimir gagic said...

Are the liberal democrats any better than new labour? From what I have read previously, they seem just as hawkish on foreign policy and just as austere domestically as labour and the conservatives. Isn't Paddy Ashdown as liberal democrat? That is one politician who towed the neoliberal (anti-Serb) line with sheer glee and satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

Neil, do you believe in democracy?

The reason I ask is because we now have a situation where Labour could very well lose the election (i.e. get massively fewer votes than the Tories - maybe even ending up in third place) yet still end up with more seats in Parliament!!

I'm no big fan of Cameron, but I think it would be a fucking insult to the British electorate if Labour lose the election, yet still cling on to government for another 5 fives with Lib Dem support!

I mean, what the hell kind of "democracy" is this...?

neil craig said...

Mous if Labour were to "hang on to government with LibDem support" it would mean they had, according to the latest polls, got the votes of about 57% of the electors. Cameron has never even aimed at getting a majority. Whatever the faults of such a government, being less democratic than either Lab/Con winning on their own is certainly not one of them.

The way it is going we are much more likely to see Clegg as PM than Brown. The LibDems may end up with fewer seats but look like getting most votes, which gives them moral authority if you believe in democracy & they also have the advantage that they can negotiate a deal with either party.

My guess, however, is that this will be their high water mark. PR will have to be brought in now & although they lose from FPTP compared to the Lab/Cons they score heavily compared to other small parties. The LDs have a number of totally insane policies (windmillery, massive blackouts, europhilia, banning everything, trading cartels to drive up commodity prices, cutting the speed limit etc) & would not survive facing sensible parties - so far they have only had to face the Lab/Cons so no problem. Note that in the only democratic election we have, the European one, they placed 4th with UKIP 2nd.

Sosialisten said...

The LibDems gets lots of votes from people who don't support all their policies, but want to protest the current system. With a more proportional election system, they will get at least as many MPs as today, but they will start losing votes, because there will be a new party system.

It might take some years, but there would eventually be splits in both Labour and the Tories (and perhaps the LibDems too), or new parties will be formed with a realistic chance of getting into Parliament. For instance, I doubt the left wing of the Labour party would have stayed in the same party as Blair and Brown if there had been an election system where a left-wing party could have entered Parliament.

Neil Clark said...

Hi Sosialisten- I totally agree. I've got a piece in today's First Post on the very same theme.,news-comment,news-politics,how-a-hung-parliament-will-change-british-politics-forever-split-labour-conservatives