How should the Lib Dems handle the Henley campaign?
Reproduced above is what happened when my email software, Thunderbird, opened a Henley campaign email sent yesterday from Nick Clegg to thousands of party members, including myself. I’ve included this partly as a bit of fun and to help illustrate a broader question about the by election which has now been set for a fortnight next Thursday – how does Clegg’s party fight in Tory held seats?
For in the two and a half years since Cameron became Tory leader the Lib Dems have gone through three leaders themselves and still do not have effective rhetoric for dealing with NuCon. What do they say about a party that has surged in the polls and now looks as though it will form the next government?
This will be magnified in the current campaign because Clegg’s party was a clear runner-up in 2005 and the battle is being portrayed as being between them and the Tories. What messages should the Lib Dems be putting out to maintain and enhance their support when the national mood is for change and Cameron is seen by the media as the man who could achieve it?
What is certain is that the third party needs to be saying something more compelling than that which is in Clegg’s email. It just appears so limp.
My view, which I have argued here before, is for for Clegg and others in the leadership to go with the grain of public opinion and accept that Cameron is sincere in his desire to change his party. The big question then to raise repeatedly whether the wider Conservative party would allow the leadership to follow the path it is setting out. Attack the Tory party not its leader.
When Cameron does something that is broadly “liberal”, like say the stance on gay partnerships, then Clegg ought to be praising him – a move that could accentuate divisions between the leadership and the wider Tory party.
As to Henley then it looks as though it is going to be dirty with the Tory campaign being led by, and I say this as a compliment, the “nastiest piece of work” on their front bench – Chris Grayling. The early salvoes have been on the alleged “carpet-bagging” nature of the chosen Lib Dem candidate who has just moved to the area – like in the past few days. Already evidence is being gathered about his “I’m local” comments while campaigning in Plymouth.
No betting markets yet though it is hard to see how the Lib Dems can pull this one off.
UPDATE Henley betting opens: See links from new Henley by election in the right hand column.