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Clegg the real loser in the proximity of Royal wedding to big vote

Posted on 25 November 2010 | 9:11am

At Glasgow airport yesterday, I got chatting to a woman working in one of the bookshops who wondered how I thought the proximity of the Royal Wedding so close to elections would play out. Not entirely sure is the answer.

It is certainly not usual for such a high profile Royal event to take place so close to major elections, not just the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assembly elections, but also the referendum on Nick Clegg’s baby, a new voting system.

I suppose the main impact will be that the media, as if not overexcited enough about the wedding already, will be in virtual shutdown-of-any-other-story mode come the last few days, which means the elections and the referendum risk being squeezed out of the national conversation. ANd even though there are a few days between wedding and vote, there will be days of ‘follow through’ as the media refuse to give up on a good thing.

There is an upside to that for those parties and candidates who can best motivate their activists and step up the face to face, door to door campaigning. And certainly one of the reasons Labour did relatively very well in Scotland in the general election was because of that strong organisation rooted in face to face campaigning.

I suppose the other question is how that intangible thing called national mood plays out across politics. My bookshop woman, a Nationalist, was sure it would help the SNP, because there would come a point where people would get tired of the overkill and see it as a very English, very Establishment affair. That optimism did not seem to be shared by the rather anxious comments Alex Salmond made about the timing.

I said to her that I thought for Labour, it played out pretty neutrally, subject to the point about finding the people still persuaded the best use of their time is knocking on doors when the media is wall to wall wedding and a lot of people may not even know the big votes are happening.

We ended up chatting about Willie Hamilton, the Labour MP who made a real name for himself as an out and out anti-Royalist when in Parliament from 1950 to 1987. It does seem remarkable that a man who left Parliament so long ago, and who died ten years ago, was the one who came to both our minds as the most notable out and out Republican. It will be interesting to see if any of today’s intake step out in that direction. I suspect David Cameron would welcome it more than Ed Miliband but who knows? I guess that pre-coalition, a Lib Dem might have ventured into that space, but now they are part of the government, the prospects of that recede a little.

I imagine the Tories will be hoping for two things: less attention on some of the more difficult and unpopular things they will be doing come the spring; and a feelgood readacross to the ruling party dominant in the home counties.

But perhaps the real political significance is for poor Nick Clegg. He will be realising that his referendum campaign just took a bloody big knock, and his mate Dave wasn’t bothered one bit when the Palace consulted Number 10 on the date of the big day.

What with taking the rap for tuition fees, and now having a great Royal bulldozer pile through his referendum campaign, he is not having a very happy coalition right now.

  • Paul McArdle

    Agree Big Alex Salmond sounded a bit worried in his statement, but I wonder if he was just subtly getting up the notion that it is all a big pain in the backside …

  • Hugh Ferndale

    I watched PMQs yesterday and Clegg looked like the bounce had gone from him. All that joie de vivre when he was flavour of the month, and now a bit of rough stuff and he looks positively fed up with it all. Maybe he is finding out the hard way that Lib Dems really are a party of opposition after all

  • Ronald Cross

    Good to see you, if my Guardian is to be believed, that you are still making donations to your party, even if it didnt elect the one you voted for as leader. I thought Ed did quite well at questions time yesterday but I see very little evidence in the papers I have read. It is going to be hard to get noticed. But I agree with you about face to face campaigning which is why the party needs donations more than ever to get the leaflets and the organisation and all that

  • Sarah Dodds

    I’ve met very few people ho give a stuff about the wedding, other than to wish them well and ask them ever so politely for us not to have to pay. People will, I’m sure, be much more concerned about the issues we discussed at our CLP meeting last night. Nothing major. Only care in the community charges doubling while provision is halved, funding for 500 children in care being cut, special school provision being decimated, free transport for adults with special needs to day care centres being abolished, the Sure Start centres closing, the wardens for sheltered housing schemes being shelved, social housing waiting list criteria being changed so that it’s almost impossible to get anywhere (we only have a waiting list of 5000 apparently!)
    You are right. No one will care about AV in May. But what people WILL care about is these services. Now that the Liberal party have showed themselves to be the biggest betrayers since Judas, Labour are the only party out there who can campaign about these issues. The only hope I felt last night was that my CLP were finally waking up to the fact that we had to become less of a talking shop and tackle and challenge these choices head on. The only way to do it is in the door to door, face to face campaiging, as we cannot rely on the media one little bit to carry these stories forward.
    What scares me most is that this is just the start. What the hell will be left after five years?

  • Olli Issakainen

    Nick Clegg will probably lose his seat in the next general election.
    Nobody seems to listen to him anymore. U-turns on early cuts and tuition fees have not helped. 52% of their voters think that the party has sold out their principles. The support for the Lib Dems has plummeted from 24% to 14%.
    40% of the people who voted for the Lib Dems now regret their choice.
    Nobody believes when Mr Clegg says that the cuts are fair and progressive. Liberal John Maynard Keynes would be astonished at current unnecessary austerity which will lead Britain to the same path as Ireland – the country that is adapting the Tory policies a couple of steps in front of Britain with no great success.
    But hung parliaments will be the order of the day in the future, so Labour must be careful not to criticize the Lib Dems too much.
    Labour has now taken the lead in the polls. Yet Ed Miliband has not had a shortage of “good advice” recently.
    But as has been already said, this is a marathon not a sprint and Ed knows how to pace himself.
    Media wants stories and controversies. Many Labour supporters want Ed to deliver a shadow CSR and attack the cuts. Some say he should reform the party.
    But Ed Miliband is a very intelligent man with PPE from Oxford. He has also taught economics at Harvard.
    He knows that it is too early for detailed policies. Alan Johnson has already told what Labour´s alternative to big cuts is.
    Labour must first ask why it lost. It must first listen to the country again before the country listens to it.
    Tony Blair and David Cameron travelled light in opposition. Ed Miliband is right not to let the Tories to define him.
    Labour needs a new strategic direction. Labour must come up with a new economic model to replace neoliberalism and offer an alternative to Big Society.
    But this takes time.
    The coalition will fail with its economic policy and its Big Society vision. Then the electorate will start to listen to Labour again. I am sure Ed Miliband will have a plan ready by then.
    The Labour party will win the next general election!

  • Chris Littlewood

    Hello, first can I just say how much i admire your blog.
    Second a question – what do you think Labour needs to do tactically to get its message into the media more effectively?
    For example, today the government has announced effectively a delay and reduction in rail investment from what was planned under Labour, but the coverage is ‘Railway gets 2100 new carriages’ (Guardian online) and ‘Railways to get £ 8 billion of investment’ (BBC).

  • Dave Simons

    Speaking about proximities, does anyone recall the spring of 1993 when some Tory politicians were arguing for the abolition of the May Day bank holiday? Not, you understand, because of their hatred of anything that smacked of organised labour trying to catch a few crumbs from the groaning table at which they dine. Oh no – it was because there were too many bank holidays bunched together in a short period: Easter, May Day and Spring Bank. The argument was a bit weakened even then by their acceptance of the New Year bank holiday following close on the heels of Christmas. But now the new breed of Tories has inserted a fourth bank holiday into the troublesome trio so that we can all forget our economic ills and celebrate (with some cost to the taxpayer) a Royal Wedding, like in the good old days of 1981. It’s difficult not to conclude that if the Conservative Party were a stick of rock, the word stamped indelibly down its centre would be ‘Hypocrisy’.

  • Susannah

    I thought he looked fed up with it all from very early on; never liked being caught on camera while Cameron was performing.

  • dynamhum

    The media will go crazy about the royal toffs for many days, but most people I speak to just think that it is simply a Royal smack in the face, when this dishonest govt are asking us to cut back.
    However, I hope it seriously rains on Cleggs parade.

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

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  • Chris lancashire

    I suspect the first thing it needs is a message.

  • Chris Littlewood

    …but here the message is simple – these are not, as spun, decisions to invest – they are decisions to reduce investment.

  • London

    Millions of the more intelligent people in this country cannot forget what you did.

    When they are being polite and shake your hand you can be mostly sure that they are thinking what a nasty piece of work you are.

    There is no escape from your conscience.

  • Pam

    Couldn’t agree more!

    The young folk are really taken in!

    Pam

  • Robert Jackson

    “Millions of the more intelligent people in this country cannot forget what you did.

    When they are being polite and shake your hand you can be mostly sure that they are thinking what a nasty piece of work you are.

    There is no escape from your conscience”

    By introducing this tone into the debate, London, you are giving permission to, and acknowledging the right of, the far far greater number who suffered terribly under Margaret Thatcher (and who will suffer again under this Tory led government) to take the same attitude.