Can the Lib Dems make the leaflet “rapist” claim backfire?
In the closing phase of election campaigns parties often implement strategies designed solely to get their activists motivated and their supporters out to vote.
At the General Election Tony Blair created the “if one in 10 Labour supporters switches or stays at home then Michael Howard becomes PM” line to put fire into his troops and to scare wavering voters into going to the polls. The fact that the statement was untrue is irrelevant and was forgotten about on May 6th.
In Cheadle the Lib Dem campaign, led by Lord Rennard (right), has sought to make capital out of the juxtaposition of stories in a Tory leaflet which can be said to suggest that their candidate is a rapist – though on close examination it’s the party’s policies on crime that are being attacked. Judging by the response of many on this site the high indignation of “the Tories being reduced to this” seems to have struck a chord – certainly with Lib Dem supporters.
But the cries of indignation have to be seen as just a tactic which is being pursued by the man with probably the best by-election record in British politics.
The Rennard approach is also aimed at the 2001 Labour supporters who moved to the Lib Dems on May 5th when the party was defending a majority of just 33 votes. If the Lib Dems can keep a substantial portion of that group on side then they are probably home and dry. If not then it could be very interesting.
The Cheadle betting has still been remarkably light – with just Â£4,500 being matched on the Betfair betting exchange. The market will stay open right through the day until the formal annoucement is made and we might see a lot of activity – particularly when the party machines start to get an idea of how they are doing.
The usual rule on by-election days is that the voting trend will start to show in the markets by about 6pm – and if big money starts piling on one of the parties then it will probably be based on reasonable information.