General Election Thoughts 2

After last weeks thoughts on what I would do if I were David
Cameron here are some on what would I be doing if I were Nick Clegg.


My last post was written (but not posted because of the
hustings meeting I chaired) before the first leaders debate which has kick
started a surge of popularity for Clegg. This poses some interesting strategic
questions for the Lib Dems. Are the looking to gain influence in
parliament, in which case they need to focus on the Conservative vote or are
they bold enough to be looking for a large number of seats (and possibly a win)
in which case they need to focus on the Labour vote. [This is because the Lib
Dems first target seats are currently conservative ones whereas if they are
seriously looking to win lots of seats they need to take them from labour as


1. Core principles: given the huge uncertainty over the
result Clegg has to work on the basis that they are not going to be the
majority party but might get the chance to be in government. So they have to
focus the message by saying whatever happens we will use our influence to focus
politics on two main issues; first competent finances (where Vince Cable is
perceived to have kudos) and second clean politics.


2. Sky leaders debate: has the potential to be a real banana
skin for Clegg because the Lib Dem foreign policy on the Euro, immigration and Europe
is less popular with the electorate. However, being anti the Iraq
war and the Trident replacement could work to their advantage. This week will
be the week for Clegg to show that his experience as an MEP gives him a good
grasp of issues and can work with foreign governments. The aim is not to get
people to agree with his policy but to demonstrate he is a serious contender.  

3. Other parties. I bet that over the last couple of days
both other parties have had a team of people looking back at Clegg’s voting
record in Westminster and in the
European Parliament looking for dirt, looking for examples when he has voted
for unpopular ideas and so on. Whilst both Conservative and Labour strategy
teams seem a bit behind the curve at the moment they will want to paint a
picture which says, Clegg sounds good but doesn’t add up; expect plenty of
attempts at rephrasing the Clinton phrase ‘you campaign in poetry but govern in
prose’.  There will also be the claims
that the Lib Dems policy would make the UK
like Greece.  

4. Promote vision to change. Clegg needs to keep positioning
himself as the clean candidate who can make things new; though the line the old
parties is a bit daft since the Liberal party was one of the old parties. He
has to keep on about aspiration and delivery saying how he has a vision for the
future but the Lib Dems have a great record in local government, running
councils, working with others to get things done. A few photo ops where there
is a chance to talk about how the Lib Dems bring both ideas and action.


5. Promote freedom not fear. The other parties have a fine
line between attacking the Lib Dems and appearing aggressive, so keep pointing
out how the encourage fear with their talk of hung parliaments. Let the people
decide – point out how Lib Dems have held the balance of power in local
councils and in Scotland
and used them to work with others.  Want
change, vote change, vote Lib Dem. 

Personally, I suspect that both Labour and Conservative
camps are worried; which they cover by suggesting that this is a transient blip
in the polls which will be over once people examine the policies. Brown’s line
that it isn’t a popularity contest but about substance isn’t true though and
they need to come up with a better line before they are dragged into third
place. Cameron needs to find a way of saying our change is thought through,
deliverable, realistic so vote for change you can get and not a repackaged
labour party.


This could get exciting; not least because my brother Richard Brighton is the Lib Dem candidate for Sutton Coldfield (for the record he wasn't consulted on any of my election comments and is in no way responsible for them).

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