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