Why do they sound as though it’s still 1997?
My apologies for the vulgar headline but it seemed the most apt phrase to describe what the Lib Dems have been doing in recent days in not directing all their fire-power on the weak declining party in British politics.
For the big dynamic only months away from the general election is the collapse of Labour – which is the mirror of 1997 when it was the collapse of the Tories. Then the Lib Dems managed to pick up many more seats by riding the public mood – now they are in danger of missing out.
For if they are seen to be trying to impede the party that’s making most of the running against Labour then that could send out the wrong message.
In those key LD>CON marginals that they are trying to defend the Tories will seize on anything Lib Dems do and say to portray Clegg’s party as not being fully signed-up in the fight against Brown’s Labour. They’ve got plenty of material to work on from the Bournemouth conference.
There’s been much talk amongst Lib Dems about the detail from the latest Populus that seems to suggest that those saying they will vote Tory are much less committed to the party of their choice than those of the other main parties.
In it only 32% of Tory supporters said it was a positive choice in response to the quesdtion:“You said earlier that you would vote Conservative if there was an election tomorrow. Do you think of that as being a vote FOR the Conservatives, because you feel positive about them, or do you think of that as being a vote AGAINST Labour, because you feel negative towards them and it seems like time for a change – or is it a bit of both?
Of the 411 Tory voters in the survey 39% said “a bit of both” and 29% said it was a vote against Labour. Amongst LAB>CON switchers the percentage saying anti-Labour was much bigger though by this time the sample is very small.
I think the Lib Dem take on this is completely wrong. What these numbers are saying is that the next election is about being for or against Labour. Are voters for change or against? The wind is blowing against Labour and that’s what should shape the LD approach.
There are, of course, a whole range of issues with the Tories, including Cameron himself, where Clegg’s party would love the leadership to engage. They would love this to be 1997 all over again but, alas, it isn’t.