Doesn’t the latest focus group highlight Clegg’s central dilemma?
Three years ago a Frank Luntz focus group on BBC2’s Newsnight so upset a number of Lib Dems on the site and elsewhere that there were formal complaints to the BBC and even suggestions that a conspiracy had taken place. Why it was argued – Luntz was a student at Oxford at the same time as Cameron!
Well I guess they won’t complaining today for Nick Clegg was the surprise “winner” last night – thus underlining the old adage that the more a test of public opinion is in line with your own views the more valid it is.
For me the programme was a massive missed opportunity – Luntz cannot come cheap and these things are costly to set up and make. Yet they chose to hold amongst existing and wavering Labour supporters in Manchester where, we were told, all the participants came from. If the producers had checked they would have discovered that there’s not a seat in city in the list of the top 200 Conservative targets. The main action will be two LAB-LD scraps. In Withington Labour will be hoping to regain the seat lost last time and Manchester Gorton could go on an 8.25% swing. Surely they should have found a location more relevant to the CON-LAB battle?
The negative views on Gordon Brown were predictable but Tories will have been quite concerned by the sometimes hostile views of Cameron. Tax came out as a big issue and it was here that the Lib Dem tax-cutting pledge seemed to score well.
What was very strange about the session was that when it started hardly any of the participants had even heard of Nick Clegg. At the end him and the Lib Dems came out on top.
The highlights, surely, the biggest challenge facing the third party – simply getting attention in the first place. They might have highly popular policies but that’s no good if nobody is aware of them. Clegg’s party will certainly get more coverage once the formal election campaign has started because of the broadcasting rules but in the meantime the party has a massive publicity challenge.