Bye, bye Gordon…
Bye, bye Gordon…
The LibDems are haggling in a backroom in Smith Square because they can’t fit inside their HQ in Cowley Street.
When Clegg comes out of the negotiating room he should explain clearly what his party’s position is going to be during intra-party negotiations to the media and thus to the voters. Otherwise it will be a bad foretaste of what would happen under proportional representation. A system where deals are stitched up in backrooms by politicians without reference to voters is not much of a democracy.
Now is an historic opportunity to reform politics for the better, to open up politics and government, to roll back an authoritarian state. If the Tory right is too small minded to allow Cameron to do a deal with Clegg then they are as stupid as they are short-sighted. This is an historic opportunity to realign politics along a liberal-conservative axis. It is the chance to destroy the Labour Party as a party of government forever. If the price is real reform of the electoral system then that is a price well worth paying to free us from the economic destruction wrought time and time again, decade after decade, by a statist, big government Labour Party. Fraser Nelson, the editor of the Spectator, says he will fight Cameron.
Don’t do it my friend, at least see what deal is on the table, this is the chance to achieve Margaret Thatcher’s ultimate ambition of two competing non-socialist parties of government.
Guido thinks the Libdems have learnt a hard lesson. A lesson learnt by Mandelson, Blair and Brown in the mid-90s. When the British press launches an onslaught against you it hurts, you might want to believe it doesn’t work, but it does.
After the post-TV debate Cleggmania the front-page scrutiny of Clegg was brutal, it wasn’t a pretty sight, some of it was loopy, but it definitely put uncertainty into the minds of many voters. You can kid yourself otherwise, but the tabloids can do damage when they go negative…
Guido likes Clegg, his anti-statist liberalism is a welcome change from the more-of-the-same social democrats who have dominated the LibDems since the merger. Clegg and some of his leadership team, like David Laws and Ed Davey, are in policy terms really on the centre-right even if they prefer to describe themselves as centre-left.
That said Clegg is hampered by the democratic structure of his party, the manifesto is written partly by the activist membership, many of whom are radical left-wingers – the infamous weirdie beardies. Clegg emphasises all the vote winning right-of-centre policies on television; cutting personal taxes, putting more police on the streets, cutting back the health and educational bureaucracies. His party has also saddled him with a manifesto that is soft on sentencing criminals, backs banning-the-bomb and joining the euro policies.
LibDem MPs and voters are to the right of the weirdie beardie activist party members. YouGov polling shows that Clegg is the most popular party leader with a 79% approval weighting. The same polling shows those voters over-whelmingly dislike LibDem policies on immigration and joining the euro. In the event of a hung parliament Clegg should use his enhanced authority to block a Lib-Lab pact however much his activists want it. Clegg won’t replace Labour as the second party by embracing them and his popularity will dive forever if he does a deal with Labour, taking his party down with it…
Graphic credit : Policy Diffusion
A few weeks ago Guido asked a CCHQ insider privy to strategy “What is the negotiating strategy with the LibDems? Is it true Matthew Hancock is in charge of the strategy?” He laughed “the joke of the negotiation strategy is that there isn’t one. If we lose narrowly we’ll leave it up to Clegg to either support Labour or stand alone. Go on to fight a second election and hope to win more comfortably.”
What, Guido asked, if the differential is big? “Don’t be f***ing stupid.”
That LibDem negotiation strategy might be a higher priority nowadays. Hancock is the Tory PPC for West Suffolk and formerly George Osborne’s chief-of-staff, Cleggmania means the problem now has the attention of those above his pay grade. Last Sunday Guido sketched out a potential May 7 scenario, Tim Montgomerie was horrified, the feedback Guido got was more mixed – mostly it was sceptical based on contact with the LibDem grassroots. Left Foot Forward editor Will Straw mirrored Tim Montgomerie, telling Guido in Dimbley’s green room that it was just not going to happen, the LibDems were “progressives”. Well that is a pretty meaningless term, it has even been borrowed by the Cameroons for their agenda. The confusion in the ranks of Labour and Tory true believers is based on the experience of contact with Libdem activists, many of whom are way to the left of Blairites. The parliamentary party is not by and large left wing - it is centrist.
Clegg and the people around him are not of the left, Vince Cable is, but he is the exception. The Orange bookers and the Cameroons share key liberal ideological tenets – localism, decentralisation, transparency and a preference for market based solutions. On the need for “savage cuts” in government spending, accelerated deficit reduction and NHS reform the LibDems have been more honest than the Tories. Most Tories can live with LibDem manifesto commitments on tax (apart from the enterprise killing capital gains hike). They are singing from the same fiscal policy hymn-sheet.
There are real areas of discordance, in particular defence and foreign policy. Here the LibDems betray their liberal radicalism, Clegg is desperately trying to square grassroots weirdie-beardie antipathy to anything nuclear with being in the government of a UN security council member and nuclear power. Letting the Tories have primacy on defence and foreign policy and the LibDems have primacy on home affairs, localism and open government is the most likely compromise. It would also broadly reflect the electorate’s wishes.
We have come a long way in the last 7 days, the well connected chronicler of the Cameroons Matthew D’Ancona now says get real it is on the cards, Cameron tells the Observer the door is open and ‘One of the keys is the people who are liberal with a small L‘, Clegg tells the Sunday Times that “You can’t have Gordon Brown squatting in No 10″, Mandelson warns voters that flirtation with Clegg might lead to a Cameroon marriage. The public on the other hand always love a big wedding. The bookies make a hung parliament the strong favourite outcome with a 60% probability and give the Tories only a 37% chance of forming a majority government. Change is definitely coming and it will probably be in the form of a coalition…
See also : The Change Coalition
With just over two weeks to go and the latest polls showing the LibDems in the lead Cleggmania is now everywhere, tomorrow the Guy News poll of polls rolling average will likely show the LibDems neck and neck or ahead of the Tories. As Brown and the left cling to the hope of a “progressive coalition” YouGov’s Peter Kellner highlights research showing that whereas 52% of voters would be ‘dismayed’ by a Gordon Brown government, some 42% of the electorate would be ‘delighted’ or ‘wouldn’t mind’ a Lib-Con “Change Coalition“ government.
Guido reads that as telling us that if Clegg signaled his intentions clearly he could seal the deal with the electorate. If he looks into the camera and says, “under no circumstances will we keep Gordon Brown in government”, swing voters and Tory waverers would no longer fear a Lib-Lab coalition and 5 more years of Gordon Brown, he could break-through to nearer 40% of the popular vote. Clegg might even win outright…
UPDATE : On the Politics Smarkets Clegg’s price seems cheap for Next PM after Gordon: Clegg is worth backing at 14%, Cameron is still favourite on 65%. Harman 17%, Miliband 14%, Balls 10%, and Johnson 10% are also in the running.
As Cleggmania grips the country, Guy News brings you a special report:
As the howls of anguish seep out of CCHQ that the LibDems will keep Brown in, Guido begs to differ, there is that risk of course but it is not as great a risk as they claim. There is also a great prize on offer, Brown can lead the Labour Party over the abyss into electoral oblivion destroying the Labour Party as a party of government. Statist, redistibutive social democracy has now been tested to the destruction of the nation’s finances. This election now presents an historic chance to break the Labour Party.
As Tories scream and point to Lib-Lab councils and the bearded sandal wearing activists who want to ban the bomb and legalise dope for purchase in euros, Guido says look at the reality. Since Charlie Kennedy’s demise the LibDems have been moving quietly to the right on economics, have jettisoned a lot of their loopiest policies and the Tories under Cameron have moved towards the LibDems on civil liberties, the environment and localism. The parties respective policies are closer now than they have been for over half-a-century. Cameron is telling the truth when he says that he is a liberal-conservative. Nick Clegg is a former Cambridge Conservative who is now a Liberal. They fact is they are both instinctively liberal metropolitan modernisers.
“But they are weirdie beardies” cry the Cameroon girls and boys distastefully in CCHQ. LibDem activists may be, but the parliamentary party is not and it is the parliamentary party with which they would have to work with in government. Here is a vote map based on data from MySociety’s Public Whip showing how increasingly over the course of the last three parliaments the LibDems more and more vote with the Tories:
We are possibly entering into an era of multi-party realpolitik. Clegg isn’t stupid, he won’t want to prop up Gordon Brown, it would infuriate voters and betray his whole change message. He is going to prefer to do a deal with the other ‘change’ candidate. If Cameron together with Clegg play it right, they can destroy the Labour Party forever…
Student Chris Williams asked Nick Clegg…
“You appear as this man of the people, with this Yorkshire constituency that’s very ‘down with the workers’. You had a very well-off South East upbringing, the son of a well-off banker, and you went to private school and then on to Cambridge, so what really makes you any different to David Cameron?”
Sally Bercow Judgement in Full | Mr Justice Tugendhat
Commies Blame Capitalism For Terror Attack | The Commentator
Lord Black v Press Regulation | Guardian
Osborne’s Complacency | FT
DWP’s Welfare Failings | Isabel Hardman
Get Used to Coalitions | David Aaronovitch
Woolwich a Showcase in the Banality of Evil | Fraser Nelson
The Enemy Within | Max Hastings
Muslim Led Military-Style Free School Needed | Toby Young
How ITV Crashed Out Online Last Night | MediaGuido
Green Leader Blames Terror Attacks on Britain | Asa Bennett
Nigel Farage hits the nail on the head:
“This olive oil ban was virgin on the ridiculous.”
Ned Flanders – Clegg
Lisa Simpson – Natalie Bennett
Milhouse – Hilary Benn
Martin Prince – Andy Burnham
Edna Krabappel – Luciana Berger
Crazy Cat Lady – Glenda jackson
Comic book guy – John Prescott
Carl – Chucka
Lenny – Philip Hammond
Willie – Eric joyce
Poochie – Gordon Brown
Reverend Lovejoy – Tony Blair