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Nick Clegg is thinking about the ‘market’ who’ll vote Lib Dem in 2015

18 September 2013

Normally, a party that was down in the polls and on course to lose around a third of its parliamentary seats would be in a grim mood, with the leader under pressure. But we don’t live in normal times; we live in coalition times. So, the Liberal Democrats have just had a remarkably chipper conference thanks to their belief that there’ll be another hung parliament. This, they calculate, will ensure that they get another five years in government. Nick Clegg’s speech today — and its confidence — was predicated on this assumption.

There is a danger for the Liberal Democrats that the public rebel against the idea that a party that loses seats and votes and comes third should carry on in government. But the Liberal Democrats calculate that the quarter of the electorate that might actually vote for them, their ‘market’, wants to hear about coalitions, and which deals they might strike.

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Today, Clegg rattled off the most comprehensive list yet of things he’d stopped the Tories from doing. I suspect that a fair few of these measures command popular support. But what interests Clegg is what his ‘market’ thinks of these ideas. The Lib Dem leader is, in electoral terms, now thinking only about this quarter of the electorate.

The Clegg strategy is to present the Liberal Democrats as a moderating force on both parties. His message at the next election will be, if you’re not sure about the other parties vote for us and we’ll keep them on the straight and narrow.

But there is a danger for them in beginning to talk about coalition deals now, 20 months before the next election. Clegg boasted that he’d stopped the Tories ditching the Human Rights Act. This invites the question, would you block the Tories from doing that in another coalition? If the parties start answering these questions, they could make any future coalition negotiation impossible.

I doubt that this speech will live long in the memory. But what it did do is set out the message that Clegg wants his party to take to the country over the next 20 months. In that respect, it succeeded.

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Show comments
  • Makroon

    In it’s ineptitude, odd emphasis, synthetic “passion” and incoherence, Cleggy’s speech reminded me of the worst efforts of poor old IDS – without the saving grace of being well meaning.

  • 2trueblue

    Cleggy telling tales about what he stopped Cameron doing may in fact play against him, and do some good for Cameron. This is an opportunity for the Tories to talk about what they could/would really do if they were not in a coalition.

  • rtj1211

    It would be most interesting to see candidates running for the ‘Spectator’ Party to see what percentage of the vote they would get.

    It would be rather less than they expect, I suspect…….

  • rtj1211

    ‘About to lose a third of its seats’….

    Well, that’s true if national polls are reflected in Libdem held seats, which usually ain’t so. Libdems set up fighting forces in winnable seats which far outstrip what they do in lost causes. Not surprising given that they don’t have sugar daddies bunging them £5m a year. They must focus where they have chances. So usually, their vote holds up better where they have a strong party machine.

    The other point is it depends whether the current position suggests they will lose by a small margin or whether they get wiped out. Small margins can be turned around quite easily. For three years, they’ve had the press beating them senseless on both the right and the left. They kept their heads down, did their jobs and only now are they starting to come out fighting. Let’s see what happens in the polls as a result of 12 months of that…..

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Nick’s message

    “We will dilute whatever the other 2 propose in their manifestos”

  • Smithersjones2013

    I doubt that this speech will live long in the memory.

    Indeed the idea that the Libdems will do anything memorable is risible.

    • rtj1211

      And the idea that you are open to anything which doesn’t confirm your somewhat abnormal prejudices is risible too……..

  • telemachus

    Crazy Presumption
    The Grimond Rump clearly will not be necessary with the decimation of Tory Marginals by UKIP who themselves will not get more than one seat

  • DrCoxon


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