Sunday, 18 April 2010

Another thought on the Liberal Democrats

And so it has begun, the Liberal Democrats 'must be exposed,' in the words of Gordon Brown. The great clunking fist has begun to swing, aimed squarely at the face of the latest challenger, Nick Clegg.

WIth the latest YouGov poll suggesting that the LibDem surge is actually real, this is hardly surprising. Liberal Democrat policies are hardly the most secure, and their positioning on a number of key issues sits way abreast of the opinions of most people.

Over the next few days I think we'll see a solid attempt by the Conservatives and Labour to mount a concerted assault on Liberal Democrat policies. It's already begun and the momentum will now be unstoppable. At the same time we're seeing an emerging message from the Lib Dems saying that you (the voter) shouldnt be distracted by the big money assaults of the major parties.

The Lib Dems will have to be resolute, sticking firmly to their messaging and forging a path through the assaults on their policy positions if they are to translate the current favourable polls into any real results. I personally think that they don't have the discipline in place to do this, but I could be wrong. In my opinion they will, like a good physics experiment, be altered by the process of observation. They will seek to change their message to further capitalise on their gains, not realising that by adjusting in the short term, they will lose out in the long term.

Of course they may have an unexpected ally in Gordon Brown. After his chanting "I agree with Nick" in the first debate he will look somewhat two faced if he goes on the offensive in the second. The public will not be pleased if Brown tries to kick Clegg's head in live on stage. Then the narrative will be that the major parties are genuinely scared of Clegg, and that he is in truth a serious contender for the throne. This could help drive more disaffected Labour voters away from the party and towards Clegg.

The other unanswered question is whether people will truly care if Clegg's policies make any sense. Most people don't really care about the minutae of policy, it doesnt relate to their world. What they appear to want is pot holes filled, an NHS which sorts out their tickly coughs and ideally they'd prefer not to get mugged.

At this stage I think it will be the message, not the minutae which makes the difference. The second and third debates will inevitably have a dramatic impact because the media has a vested interest in ensuring they do. What the narrative will be out of these debates will come down to a mix of party political messaging, media whim and polling.

If nothing else, it promises to be good theatre.

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