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Clegg rise good news for the campaign

Posted on 17 April 2010 | 10:04am

The rise in Lib Dem support since the TV debate is the best thing that can happen to this election. Oh ok, a sudden ten point rise for Labour, matched by a Tory slide, would have been better, but it was never likely, so this is a good second best.

It means finally there is the chance of making it a policy based campaign in which the public get the chance to hear, from the parties talking about themselves and each other, and via the media, what the different policy positions are.

Surely even our trivialising, process-obsessed broadcasters can see that if they have any sense of public service left in them, this election now has to be about policy, policy, policy.

Because we have moved from everyone thinking David Cameron was home and dry, and so the talk was of what a Tory government would be like, to a position where anything can happen.

According to the bookies Cameron is still favourite to be PM. But the very thought is now, finally, unsettling people. GB can still do it. Or there could be a hung Parliament, with either Labour or Tory as the biggest party.

There was a touch of the X Factor to the leaders’ debate set-up. And Nick Clegg very cleverly played the anti-politics card from the position of being there on equal terms but with nobody, him included, thinking he could be Prime Minister. But both Tory and Labour now have interest in openly recognising the hung parliament scenario. Because it is that which means that for once people really do have a right to know what Lib Dem policies are, and how close or distant they are from Labour and Tory. If they can be big time players, they have to be treated as such.

Of course on lots of things, Labour and the Lib Dems agree. On a few things, the Tories and the Lib Dems agree. I suspect many of those people who are now expressing support for Clegg based on his TV performance are unaware that he wants to cut child trust funds, child tax credits and winter fuel payments. Or that he wants to scrap the train to gain programme. Or that he wants an amnesty for illegal asylum seekers.

Traditionally third party leaders have not been exposed to anything like the policy scrutiny of the other two leaders. In the years leading to this election, the Tory leader has also not really been scrutinised.

What happened on Thursday is that the Tory leader stumbled badly under the weight of examination by the other two. Now Clegg, who struck people as a more attractive and younger ‘time for a change’ candidate than Cameron, has enjoyed a surge in support, which means his policies will get more attention.

We should all welcome that.  Because when we get to May 6, the issue for all the undecideds must surely be economic and policy credibility as we face an uncertain future. And I think Labour will be seen to score best there.

According to a former colleague of mine who advises the Lib Dems they did not expect to be in this position one week in.

It is bound to make the Tories nervous and so it should. It should not make Labour nervous. We should welcome it, and feel confident that just as we have begun to beat the Tories on the merits of arguments put and sustained over time, we can do the same with the Lib Dems, whilst all the time reminding people this shows the progressives outnumber the conservatives in Britain, by a long way.

That in itself is a measure of how much New Labour has changed Britain for the better.

*** Quote of the day from Cameron btw ‘We all know that polls react to news cycles. It is a very depressing thing about politics: you do your manifesto launch or conference speech and you get a bounce and you think ‘fantastic, we are on our way’ and then a few days later you think ‘hold on, what did we do all that for?’

So now we know why, within 24 hours of launching The Big Society, it became The Great Ignored – ignored, that is, by him. It is a very revealing statement, further confirmation that he thinks more about the news cycles than he does about having a clear vision based on clear prnciples and thought through policy positions … which is why he came such a cropper on Thursday.

May I also point out to our still-biased media that if Kinnock, Blair or Brown had ever mistakenly slipped China into an answer on why we need nukes, they would by now be so stoking the frenzy that the UN would have to have an emergency Security Council meeting. He is still getting away with the tamest media environment of any Opposition leader in history with the possible exception, for a day or two, of Nick Clegg.

*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour

  • Simone Webb

    Thank you for that post – I found it quite cheering, after getting so gloomy over the Lib Dems’ successes.

  • Peter

    The sooner we depart from personality politics started by Thatcher and exceeded by Blair the better for us all.

    In that I agree, so for me its still Education, Eduacation, Eduacation but with Policies, Policies, Policies

  • Louise

    Very well said, Alistair as ever. Clegg had everything to gain on thursday – from exposure and seriously low expectations. A surge in their support will hurt the tories the most but has also turned the media’s attention to the lib dems. We won’t lose many votes to the libs if people realise how right-wing Clegg is – proposing to cut taxes and public spending and you only have to look at them up and down the country to see them allying with the tories in local councils. If that wasn’t enough, he praising Thatcher’s achievements last month should be enough to put off any Lib/Lab undecided!

  • Christian

    What utter nonsense.

    Brown showed his usual petty behaviour and bending of the truth. Both his assertions about immigration and policing have been openly challenged. But I forgot, he likes to do that and sneak the real story out afterwards – by mistake means…

    How anyone can possibly contemplate re-electing such as disastrous government is beyond me. The tories are hardly covering themselves in glory but labour are hopeless.

    Clegg got off lightly because the other two were cowards and think that they have to tread on eggshells around the Liberals. Of course the liberals know this and are enjoying the process all the more.

  • kathy mcilroy

    I am undecided voter. By that I mean undecided between the conservatives and Lib Dems. Nick Clegg did well and argued his point. However, I will wait and see. What I do know with people like Yourself, Peter Mandelson. Ed Balls Yvette Cooper and Charlie Whelan involved in the Labour Party, I would never ever vote for your corrupt lying party. Just think Dr Kelly and that tells you all you need to know about Labour. I don’t suppose this will get through.

  • Paul Hills

    Clegg did well because he said what people want to hear. For example he talked tough on immigration. But Alastair, do your friends and neighbours in Burnley (those that might be tempted to vote Lib Dem as a way of protesting at Labour without going to the BNP) know that Clegg wants an amnesty of illegal immigrants? How will that go down on the Stopes estate I wonder. Labour have been too slow to take the Lib threat seriously. Glad to see your blog this morning.

  • Kate Harrington

    Agree re trivial media on the news bulletins but there have been some good debates on the news channels. Robinson on the BBC is a problem. It is all a gigantic ego trip. He even did the debates as being all about him feeling the same as the candidates. Will nobody in BBC high places rein him in? And all the other reporters now cannot seem to do a report without being on camera all the time. Bring back John Cole

  • Mark Wright

    The 2010 election has become the Grand National of politics. It’s a long race, a test of endurance, the contenders are often hostage to unforseen obstacles and the initial front runner seldom has the stamina to remain in the lead right to the end.

    As the frontrunner Cameron put his all into last Thursday. He played his best hand and was surely confident that his message of ‘hope’ and ‘change’ would be enough to galvanise the British electorate to rise up as one and say “YES, DAVE, WE ARE WITH YOU BROTHER!!!” As a fan of US-style debates I really thought he’d clinched it with that closing statement. But it turns out we are not as similar to our American cousins as DC obviously thought.

    I expect to see a bit of an ‘Al Gore moment’ (Al Gore’s ridiculously agreesive postering towards GW Bush during the US debates of 2000) at the next debate as the DC camp advise him to toughen his stance against the other two.

    DC, despite what many say, is not a good communicator or performer. Any contrasting style to that seen last Thursday will just come across as shallow, superficial and, worst of all for him, ridiculous. It will further compound the view of him and his party as lightweights who will say anything in order to win back power.

  • Salmondnet

    Time for the Tories to put out a press release “Alastair Campbell welcomes LibDem resurgence”. That should kill it stone dead.

  • Patrick James

    David Cameron thought that all he had to do was be the new guy in this election and that would see him through.

    But now a newer guy has appeared and eclipsed Cameron.

    The new guys are going to be arguing now:

    “I’m newer than him!”

    “No, I’m newer than him!”

    Meanwhile, there’s an old guy who can say, maybe “new” isn’t so attractive after all.

  • Richard Burnell

    “The rise in Lib Dem support since the TV debate is the best thing that can happen to this election”

    …… and “Blair Plus” slides to third place…..and your man (sorry GB, not Orange-Man) was hopeless in the debate…leads Labour to the wilderness. An interesting concept, Al.

    But I forgot, that was the objective of TB, Mand

  • Richard Burnell

    “The rise in Lib Dem support since the TV debate is the best thing that can happen to this election”

    …… and “Blair Plus” slides to third place…..and your man (sorry GB, not Orange-Man) was hopeless in the debate…leads Labour to the wilderness. An interesting concept, Al.

    But I forgot, that was the objective of TB, Mandy any you to destroy GB for his treatment of TB over 15 years. Clever.

    If you had been around you could have advised Foot in ’83 and put that on your cv too.

  • Robert Jackson

    Just because the polls have been shaken up a little this week and the Conservatives see a bounce for the Lib Dems in the polls (some jolly dicey by the look of things)
    they are running about like minor characters in a moralising Victorian novel – the young dissolutes who can see their widowed father falling in love with an honourable lady. All they can see is what they perceive as their inheritance slipping from between their grubby fingers.

  • Bar Bar of Oz

    So the heir to Blair emerges from the Lib Dems?

    Should we be surprised. Takes one back to 1997 when TB wanted to govern in a coalition with Paddy Ashdown and the Lib Dems but the unexpectedly huge size of the Labour majority stymied him. What a visionary is Tony Blair.

    Interestingly there is a Newsnight video available of a Frank Luntz focus group of Labour and floating voters which earmarked Clegg as the heir to Blair – in September 2008!

  • Sally Phillips

    I was just looking at some of the comments posted here today. I think some people are so rude to come on to a person’s website and slag them off,rather like going to someone’s house, being invited to come in and then shouting abuse at them. One example is Katie McElroy who calls Labour a “corrupt,lying party”. I daresay you have got your ideas from the BBC News, Katie, who have indoctrinated you when you weren’t looking. Or maybe you aren’t very bright. So, alright, why is the Labour Party corrupt and lying? Atleast if you say something like this, then give a reason. I bet you haven’t got one.
    Yeah, go and join the Conservatives, dear. It will be easy for you to understand their policies, because they have only got the one, which is: “We are going to look after our own interests.” So even you should be able to understand that.

    Yours sincerely,

    Sally Phillips

  • Stephen Evans

    Thinking further ahead to the third debate (I think is the economy) and the question from the PM should be (unfortunately the PM isn’t asking the questions) what would the other two parties have done differently at the height of the global economic crisis and how in their OPINION it would have moved the country forward from where we are today? Any answer should be supported by independent bodies on projections for figures on unemployment, GDP etc? My view is the later would be difficult to quantify, however, to make a fair comparison on policy it must be attempted to allow the country to take a reasoned view on economic direction of the three parties at the height of a crisis, but more importantly the judgement of the three leaders.

  • Francis Brooke

    The TV debates are a great addition to the election campaign – the opportunity to see the three leaders in action is invaluable. Voters in this election have to consider which party and leader can cope best with the huge challenges ahead and vote accordingly – for me the only option is Conservative and David Cameron.

  • Steve Shan

    Couldn`t agree with you more Alastair…You are my hero after Blair and you hit the nail on the head…The Tory leader gets away with murder…He is just a better looking George Bush…Good luck with what you do