Opinion: We need to stop helping the other parties and change our message

The Liberal Democrats have achieved many good things in Government and stopped the Tories doing many bad things. As with every government, there have been mistakes and much that could have been done better, but with fewer than one in ten MPs the party has punched well above its weight and, as a result, many good Liberal Democrat policies are now being put into practise.

And yet the party is being hammered in the polls and we’ve just seen a disastrous set of local and European elections with the Liberal Democrats down to just a single MEP.

What’s gone wrong, above all else, is the communication.

The party itself has made its fair share of mistakes. Tuition fees is the obvious, though far from only, one. It’s a graduate tax and if the Coalition had scrapped tuition fees and introduced the current policy as a graduate tax, in line with the NUS campaign, then we might be in a very different place today. Even when we didn’t, if the party had told voters about the benefits of the new system rather than thinking “It’s more than four years to the General Election, surely no-one’s going to remember tuition fees by 2015, so let’s just keep quiet and wait for it to go away,” maybe we’d not be quite where we are now.

I was speaking to someone on the doorstep a couple of months ago who raised tuition fees as a concern. I explained the facts about how the new system works and she said “That sound OK – why didn’t anyone tell me three years ago?” Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course and many of the mistakes are ones I signed up to at the time.

But we also need to recognise that the party has been caught in a Labservative pincer movement. The two big parties and their friends in the media all want to see the Liberal Democrats eradicated. They’ve been working hard to do it and we’ve done little to stop them.

One example: hundreds of Liberal Democrat councillors have lost their seats across the country in part because of the lie that Austerity is a Coalition invention that those nice Labour people would never have done. The lie suits both other parties. The Tories like being seen as the party of tough decisions against soft, economically incompetent Labour. The Labour party love to pretend they had some magic solution to the economic crisis that didn’t involve cuts.

The reality is that councils were told about the impending local government cuts in the autumn of 2009, under Labour, and Ed Balls has already committed to continuing them if Labour win in 2015. The cuts Darling planned as Labour chancellor were virtually identical to the cuts the Coalition actually delivered.

The lie helps Labour, it helps the Conservatives, and it has badly damaged the Liberal Democrats. Yet we have not challenged it. Yes, we need to talk about our achievements in Government. But unless we can communicate the truth about austerity, about taxation (that because of the Liberal Democrats the rich are paying more tax now than under Labour and the poor are paying less) and other key areas where we have lost people’s trust, it may all be for nothing.

It certainly won’t help much to change leader. It may be too late to change the message. It may be too difficult. But I believe it may be our last, best hope.


* Iain Roberts is a Stockport councillor, LGA Peer and consultation, communications and public affairs consultant specialising in the built environment.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Foregone Conclusion 26th May '14 - 7:10pm

    Isn’t this the message we’ve been delivering for the past four years?

  • Matthew Doye 26th May '14 - 7:15pm

    I quite agree. It’s plain banging on about jobs hasn’t been the message potential voters want to hear. There has been too much stronger economy and not enough fairer society.

  • Liberal Neil 26th May '14 - 7:23pm

    I don’t think we have been communication our message very effectively at all.

    In the run up to the Euros I was regularly told that the message would be ‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’.

    In fact the message suddenly became ‘the party of IN’. It takes some talent to present the party policy on Europe ina way that makes it even less popular than our actual policy!

    As a strategy for an unpopular party of government, fighting on one of your least popular policies seems mad to me.

    And then plastering the name and face of your more popular opponent over all your literature even madder.

    In contrast, in my area at least, campaigning on apprenticeships, pupil premium and cutting tax for basics rate taxpayers, has gone down quite well.

  • Radical Liberal 26th May '14 - 7:35pm

    We need to be distinctly liberal. Whats distinct about baning on about jobs? How is that unique to us liberals? How does it shape our identity? Why don’t we focus on a theme like empowering the individual and local communities? Redistributing power and levelling hierachies both in politics and economics? With this language we would at least sound like liberals.

  • I wish I could “like” that last comment. Because what seems to be missing from all of the LibDem slogans is something to differentiate us from the other parties. All of them care about jobs (or say they do). Labour will _always_ beat us on fairness (although we could stand to be a damn sight fairer). I see very little that says “Here is what the Liberal Democrats believe in” – except for “Party of In” – which fell miles short of the kind of slogan I’d like to see (“A fairer Europe” would have been a lot further in the direction I’d have liked.)

  • Jonathan Pile 26th May '14 - 8:00pm

    I’m a lib dem council candidate , I stood for the first time and polled just 221 votes – 5.4% about the same asmy colleagues. I stopped ukip from winning off labour by 166 votes but small comfort. The conclusion I reach is there is a major disconnect with the voters especially our lib dem voter. Three simple steps – drop tuition fees through dropping HS2 all popular with our core vote also get Michael Cove sacked and sadly time for Nick to make the ultimate sacrifice to detoxify the message – you can’t escape how unpopular he is -25 rating and a loss against farrage on a debate he triggered

  • If you always do what you always done you will always get what you always got…..

  • Peter Chegwyn 26th May '14 - 8:24pm

    Jonathan – I agree with you that there is a major disconnect with the voters, especially our own.

    Even those who argue this is not the time to change our Leader still broadly agree that our message has to change as does the way it is communicated.

    Sadly that view doesn’t appear to have got through to the messenger. It was very depressing to hear Nick on TV today saying he doesn’t believe our message needs changing at all, we just need to shout it louder.

    Nick can shout it as loud as he likes but the sad truth is the electorate stopped listening to him ages ago.

    Nick’s personal popularity rating isn’t – 25. It’s – 56. That’s why many of us feel we have to change the messenger as well as the message. Brand Clegg is toxic with the voters and there is absolutely no sign whatsoever of that changing.

    Changing the Leader won’t solve all our problems overnight, of course it won’t, but continuing with a lame duck Leader until we get pasted again at the polls in a year’s time really isn’t a sensible way to proceed.

    The sooner we start re-building, the better.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th May '14 - 8:35pm

    @Radical Liberal – Totally agree!
    Clegg did well when he sounded like a Liberal at the last election. Since then however he has, more often than not, reverted to form and tried to make us into a centre party in his own image (New Lib Dems without the honesty of the New Labour project), encouraged the free-marketeers and lumbered us with the appallingly insipid and completely aliberal ‘stronger economy, fairer society’ slogan.

    Although a Radical, I have been undecided on whether or not he should go – asking myself if we are better with someone who has made mistakes but learnt from them rather than starting again so close to the General Election. It was not a clear cut decision to me.

    Then I saw the BBC interview with him. He appeared to be saying that although very disappointed for the party and those who had lost their seats, there was no alternative to what we had done and that there would be no changes to our message or direction.

    Sorry but this is just not good enough and suggests we are not learning from our mistakes nor listening to what the electorate have just told us in no uncertain terms.

    As a result, and with not a little regret, I see no alternative but to elect a new party leader without delay.

  • John Roffey 26th May '14 - 8:59pm

    Although others have raised this point – I did not give the matter sufficient credence.

    I did, however, get the distinct impression from Danny Alexander, on C4 News, that the Party leadership is prepared to risk all [and I do mean all] on establishing the Party’s long-held ambition to establish the concept of multi-party or coalition government in the UK – as is the case in other EU nations.

    Whereas I will concede that if this strategy were successful it would be a huge step forward for the Party – as it would give the it far more influence than it deserved on the affairs of State, in purely ‘vote share’ terms, however, it is an enormous risk for a Party with such a long and proud history.

    It is also a strategy that could be shattered within a very short time in the month or months leading up to the GE. Although leading Tory ministers have dismissed a pact with UKIP, I find it very difficult to believe that the Daniel Hannan proposal would not be considered seriously if the Tories were not in a strong position to win the next GE outright just prior to the election – Farage certainly left the option open in his victory speech.

    “Pact that could keep Ed out of No 10: Cameron faces renewed demands after survey of marginal seats suggests Ukip votes will put Labour back in power”


    I think most would acknowledge that if such a pact were formed [and so late in the day] or if the Party were unable to retain sufficient seats to make the difference in a hung parliament – it would very likely sound the death knell of the Party as there would be no time to change Party strategy in response.

  • Paul Roberts 26th May '14 - 9:28pm

    I totally agree that the problem is poor communication of our successes, and failure to put any positive spin on our failures – I just cannot see how we can dramatically turn it around in the next 11 months without changing something. The story is now the Lib Dems disastrous electoral showing in 2014, and poor prospects for 2015 – why on earth would the media suddenly decide that our contributions to Government are a better story?
    The only chance of getting a better narrative in the media is to give them a new story: The only one I can think of that has any chance of traction is a Leadership election. However, we really need this to start after the result of the Scottish referendum is known – It would be disastrous if we elected a new leader with a Scottish seat, and Scotland then voted “yes”, but if Scotland votes “no” there are at least two Scottish MPs who would be credible Leadership candidates.

  • Julian Tisi 26th May '14 - 9:35pm

    A really good article and I think your examples are good ones. One of our problems is presentation – “The Party of in” was another howler. I actually don’t have a problem with the fact that we were explicitly open about being pro-European but “The Party of In” doesn’t capture what most of us actually think about Europe. Most of us want reform but see being positive as the best way to achieve it. But our vacuous slogan left the reformist agenda to Cameron. Our campaigns team really aren’t covering themselves in glory at the moment. If I was wanting to kick someone out right now and change direction I’d start there.

  • Stephen Hesketh 26th May '14 - 10:00pm

    @Julian Tisi – Yes, the slogan writer(s) have got to go along with Nick Clegg. Are these people supposed to be professionals? Does no one vet their output before it hits the fan?

  • Julian Tisi “Our campaigns team really aren’t covering themselves in glory at the moment”

    You don’t think that perhaps the Leader should exercise his ‘little grey cells’ and give the matter some serious thought and then articulate his vision to the country? Isn’t that his job?

  • “The Liberal Democrats have achieved many good things in Government and stopped the Tories doing many bad things.”

    Really? The only policies I’m aware of that you have got through are the pupil premium and free school dinners. Those increasingly look badly thought out and under funded.

    For the Tories it has been Christmas, you have rolled over and given them everything they wanted. They got the bedroom tax, they got draconian measures against jobseeker, against the disabled. The Tories got their NHS privatisation, they got austerity, university tuition fees, and the Post Office privatisation. The Lib Dems have made no difference.

    Now your line may work when speaking to true believers, but at the next election you will need people like me who use to loyally vote Lib Dem. I find that line about how you have stopped the Tories to be an infuriating line, and everytime I hear a Dem utter it, my resolve never to vote for you again grows.

    You want my support back, then you have to show humility and appoligise for what you have done. Now you can censor this post, but I’m afraid you can’t censor my vote. Best listen, or face extinction come election time.

  • “Well said Iain. Osborne has delivered Alistair Darling’s plan pretty much spot on, whilst saying he was delivering ‘austerity’. Stupid thing is that Balls has played the game by continuing to say ‘the plan has failed’ so that now the economy is improving he has nothing left to say. ”

    Would that be the economy with a massive trade deficit and dangrous housing bubble? What happened to rebalancing the economy, march of the makers? Frankly if the best you can do is start another bubble fueled boom to try and win the next election, before another massive crash when the bubble bursts, then you haven’t done very well.

  • Andrew Colman 27th May '14 - 12:01am

    3 reasons why people vote UKIP
    )a) Just hate foreigners, gays, hippies etc.
    (b) Take home pay is too low
    (c) Housing shortages

    UKIP has appealed to all 3 blaming low ages and housing shortages on the EU and immigrants. Can’t do much with those in category (a) but should easily be able to provide better solutions to (b) and (c). This is Clegg’s challenge and the challenge of all civilised mainstream politicians

  • “The Liberal Democrats have achieved many good things in Government”. Do you mean helping to privatise the NHS, supporting the bedroom tax, supporting savage welfare cuts on the poor and disabled, reneging on tuition fees. Need I go on? As the saying goes, the hens have come home to roost.

  • Liberal Neil 27th May '14 - 1:05am

    Radical Liberal – if you want to know what’s liberal about making sure people have jobs, read the report written by that great radical liberal Beverige.

  • Ryan’s comment illustrates the problem that we face.

    “Do you mean helping to privatise the NHS” – some 94% of NHS services by value are still delivered by publicly-owned contractors, not private ones.

    “supporting the bedroom tax” – It has been badly implemented, I agree, but why should we pay people scarce government money to live in accommodation that is too large for them, while other people don’t have the accommodation they need?

    “supporting savage welfare cuts on the poor and disabled” – Sorry, but what “savage cuts”? We are spending more on benefits than ever before. There have been no “savage cuts”. Which savage cuts are you talking about?

    “reneging on tuition fees” – You’re right there. But we had one eleventh of the MPs and no money to implement our policy. How could we have put it into practice?

    Meanwhile, Ryan conspicuously ignores all the positive things we’ve done like cutting income tax for the less well-off, pupil premium, Green Investment Bank, scrapping ID cards, free school meals, protecting the value of pensions, infrastructure investment at a higher level than under almost all the time under Gordon Brown, higher capital gains tax etc etc.

    I agree with Iain Roberts that when you explain all of this to voters individually they are surprised and realise they have been fed a distorted and often wrong picture, typified by Ryan’s comment, of what the Lib Dems have done in power. But many of them have been fed the anti-Lib Dem (and particularly anti-Clegg) line for so long that they no longer want to have any kind of dialogue with us. We can’t even get a foot in the door. That is the problem.

  • RC – “reneging on tuition fees” – You’re right there. But we had one eleventh of the MPs and no money to implement our policy. How could we have put it into practice?

    But to me RC you are precisely pinpointing why you are in so much trouble as a party. Don’t you remember or has it been conveniently been forgotten how Clegg made huge political capital with the ‘different kind of politics’ verbiage? We now know that Clegg and his inner group had decided as he spoke those very words that he wasn’t going to vote against tuition fee rises.

    You now want to portray the decision as an inevitable result of having no money, not enough MP’s etc etc (and has been pointed out above ‘not having the money’ is always arguable). You want to counter what a lot of people feel emotionally about what they see has happened with both tuition fees and other decisions (and the word betrayed I don’t feel is too strong here) with yet more debate.

    I’m afraid the Lib Dems can’t shake off the habit of saying ‘look you know its really logical and once the electorate realise that everything will be ok’. For further evidence of the electorate’s ability to be completely non-rational how about voting en masse for a party that actually doesn’t intend to represent them and has hardly any policies (you know who I mean).

    So logically I understand all the arguments about Clegg and why he should stay and why it might not help for him to resign. The electorate are way ahead of you and emotionally just want him gone. Sometimes you just have to accept that’s the case, and that has to be done before people will start listening to those logical arguments again.

    I’m afraid for you that Clegg and his followers just can’t accept that.

  • Okay, I used to vote liberal. Where to start?
    A few weeks ago I heard a report on student loans. It said that because of the various concessions, many student loans would never be repaid. Guess thats what the libs intended. So what was the proposal now? Change the rules so they would have to be repaid anyway! Libs sold their principles for nothing.

    Another lib principle is proportional representation. not only did the libs fail to get any change in the voting system or house of lords, but they enetered into a coalition on a first-past the post basis. Conservatives got 11 million votes in 2010 but liberals got 7 million. Did libs ge ta share of government jobs and decision making accordingly?

    Have liberals stated what they believe while in coalition, or parroted some conservative line they detest because they are in coalition? Hypocrisy!

    Entering a coalition was unnecessary and a huge mistake. The only winners have been the conservatives. Liberals have now positioned themselves on the right, of politics where they are unacceptable to me. SO liberals say they are centrist, left, stand up for individual rights. Where is evidence for any of that when they finally had a bit of influence? What happened to the party conference when it disagreed with the MPs? Flattened! Never mind respecting the voters, couldn’t even respect the party members.

  • @peebee, you are spot-on. I am not in the least surpised at the catastrophe (not too strong a word) that is befalling the LibDems. Four years ago the LibDem leadership decided to take the party in a direction that the majority of its supporters disagreed with.The electoral disaster occurring now was being predicted by many of us back then. I believe the “biggy” was the Fees about-turn. One day we had ‘a new kind of politics’ – the next day the Tuition Fees Pledge was dumped (as the Leadership always knew it would be), with hardly a hint of regret, embarrassment or remorse. That was the end of the New Kind of Politics – and the end for me, and many others.

  • Chris Stallard 27th May '14 - 9:08am

    Replace the word “message” with “leader” and I think you may be on to something.

  • danny. You can’t enter coalition on a Pr basis when your seats are those given by fptp.

    The coalition was very necessary. Why do you say it was unnecessary? Who was going to set government direction if there was no government?

  • David wilkinson 27th May '14 - 10:02am

    On the point by Jonathan Pile on scrapping HS2 to pay for tution fees, one is capital spending and the other is revenue.

    Plus we need the extra capacity provided by HS2 and yes, we need a few more major rail as well as HS2

  • @danny

    >Entering a coalition was unnecessary and a huge mistake.

    Nope – entering a coalition was the only way to keep UK PLC looking like an investable product and was entirely necessary for the stability of our country. What would you of done? Tinkered with confidence/supply for a few months? Held another General Election? I’m no fan of Clegg, but you don’t seem to have a very good grip on the circumstances of entering the coalition, nor understand the ramifications of what you’re saying.

    …must be a rough day at the treasury… 😉

  • @danny I personally sympathise with a lot of what you say.

    Having thought about it over the weekend (and putting my own views and opinions to one side), I think that to have the best chance at the GS, the LDs actually need to move further to the right.

    Voters like me (and possibly yourself) are most unlikely to vote LD at the GE regardless of who is leader or what is in the manifesto, since anything in the manifesto may go out of the window in any coalition negotiation – and the same applies to “personal pledges” / oaths / promises etc 😉

    All of the potential leadership candidates have been publicly signed up to the coalition project and so I don’t think any of them could credibly campaign on a platform of “forgive me for the last four years, I won’t do it again unless there’s a coalition with the Tories on offer, in which case I will”. Same applies to the party as a whole – how can you campaign against a government that you’ve been part of?

    So I don’t think a change of leadership does any good, and a tack left will only lose votes on the right while failing to win votes on the left.

    However, a tack right, with a focus on economic liberalism, libertarian values and the promise of a referendum on the EU (we’re the party of in, but we think the people should decide) may allow the LDs to pick up votes on the right, and I would assume that the remaining core vote would be comfortable with it.

    “Equidistance” would of course have to go out of the window, but this would allow the LDs to focus on attacking LD / Lab marginals. It would also (probably) get the LDs an easier ride off the Tory press and the promise of a referendum would (possibly) shoot UKIPs fox.

    Would I vote for that? Definitely Not. But I do think it’s the best tactic open to the LDs for the coming GE.

  • sorry JUF but you are very wrong. A move to the right would be catastrophic as that ground is crowded enough. Tories are not going to move to us (unless the Tories themselves move too much to the Right pulled by UKIP).
    hell, a good part of the reason we’ve lost so many votes is precisely because we’re strongly perceived to have left the centre and moved right!

    And I know that if we did, I’m out of here not only as a member but as a voter!

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 27th May '14 - 2:47pm

    Dear Nick, If you are determined to stay on and change – START LISTENING.

    I answered yesterday’s LDVoice questionnaire and LDV posts by saying Nick should stay and make a better job of listening to the members, change his advisory team immediately, and call a meeting with activists and others this week. There have been too many mad-cap ideas and slogans from the back of an envelope, Nick. If Nick sticks to the last few years produced by his close team he will be finished at the polls himself in 2015!

    We have to change the way we communicate – not the scatter-gun approach to various sections of the nation but talk about the really big issues which resonate with the voters who are listening. We need a few real issues and not the party of IN stuff – where did that come from? [I’m not IN but I want REFORM, doesn’t everyone?] We have somewhere between 7% and 13% of the voters with us (let’s say 10%) which is the same as the LGBT minority as it happens. We now communicate to a minority group of the voters and must build on that number in a better way. Other parties are following the way we target and will target too. We have to build a better image for a start – as well as targetting.

    That can only be done with our activists, so meet them, listen to them, apologize for the silly comments made to drive so many to the left, to Labour; or to the right to the nasty parties, start the new image rolling NOW for 2015 or we will be back to 3-5% in the polls. I don’t jest – there must be changes which the public responds to positively.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 27th May '14 - 3:09pm

    p.s. It’s good to read the posts here which are about the details and background analyses – I enjoy them enormously. But we have to start communicating simply and effectively about the issues which effect the voters. That is why I want to keep our messages clear and simple.

    Let’s start by clearing up the tuition fees situation. You must. People don’t hear the reasons for the change. People don’t understand it as all they hear is the opposition to change. If you cannot explain, positively, LDs are not worth voting for.

  • @Pegasus – as I said, I wouldn’t vote for it, I was just thinking about how to maximise the number of LD MPs in the next parliament.

    More of the same won’t work, I don’t think moving to the left will work since left of centre voters are predominantly the ones who feel “betrayed”, which just leaves moving to the right. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tories do move to the right following UKIP’s success.

    What the identity of the LDs would be after such a move is a different question.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 27th May '14 - 3:48pm

    It’s 27 May and Nick is still talking from his same message of more of the same. Does Nick actually read this site? Are we the ones crying in the wilderness? If we have no connection to the LibDem centre we have to consider where we will go. Same way as those who left already?

  • Charles Kennedy …………. The Lib Dems need you……….the country needs you. Pro Europe – didn’t vote for Tuition fees (I think??) – experienced media performer – well known…..and yes even liked by the Public……………
    CK – your the only hope!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I agree there has been far too much timidity in calling out the other parties. And there is a real opportunity to that The Lib Dems are not just trying to moderate the Tories. A lot of the problems are down to ideas that seem to have been scribbled on a post it and have been very costly. Gove just makes things up on the hoof and IDS is still trying to push the universal credit idea to pretty dismal effect. As for Labour. Balls is a weak link and the fact is he is pledged to the same budget commitments. The point is that you are part of a government and need to remind people that you are the good part of it. The Coalition ends next year. The Lib Dems should put their own future. first rather trying to angle for another coalition which is as tactily misguided as playing for a draw,

  • tabman:
    Yes, of course you can enter a coalition on any terms negotiated between the partners. If one party has 300 MPs but needs 301 for a majority and another party has 5, then its just a question how much the first party wants that deal. Conservatives only alternative was to try a minority government. The weakness of the liberals position was not that they had fewer MPs but that the conservatives did have this alternative choice. The relative number of MPs only made a difference to conservative pride.

    The logical choice would have been a conservative-labour coalition, if what was needed was a government of national unity. I dont believe the parties believed the situation was this dire, and the country did indeed still have a government. The government does not cease untill it resigns, and clearly it would not have done so untill a successor could be found.

    I don’t know if I read it here or elsewhere, as have been reading politics posts recently, but truth was, the autumn conservative budget was pretty much that already prepared by labour. So not only was there a government already in place, but also an agreed policy!

    ChrisB: I am not impressed by this claim the liberals chose to martyr themselves to save the country. As a believer in proportional representation, I believe in legislatures which have to make deals and decide the way forward, on the basis of the representatives actually chosen by the people. I think it would have been good for Britain to have policy made by the house of commons, vote by vote, instead of sewn up by one party.

    I was also quite stunned after the last election by this sudden adoption of the conservative mantra that UK plc was in imminent danger of collapse, hence the need for a coalition. It wasnt. Labour had done just fine steering the country out of the recession. those of you with short memories might need reminding that what actually happened when the coalition took over was a slipping back into recession. It could be argued that introducing labour’s budget of prepared cutbacks six months early was exactly what caused this falter in the recovery labour had instigated. At the time economists were crying out for greater stimulus. The coalition was anyway forced by the financial situation to row back the cutbacks it had announced.
    (nope, not me at the treasury!)

    Juf: I didnt comment on Clegg, but I think your analysis is right that it is hard to see what the liberals can do to remedy their situation. it is hard as a voter to resist the notion that Clegg came out of nowhere, got himself 5 years as deputy prime minister with the no doubt fascinating experience of being at the centre of government, and will now leave politics a happy man. With a pension. Shame about the party, but thats just the luck of the draw.

    i have no idea what he really thinks, and he certainly entered with gusto into being cameron’s poodle, so maybe he did not do anything so calculating. Maybe he really thought this was best for the party, and I can see that it could have turned out very differently in the absence of Mr Farage. However, fundamentally, he chose sides in the lab/con match and thus lost his standing as an independant. To add insult, from my freedom of the individual standpoint, he tuned right rather than the more palatable left.

    Some members of the parliamentary party have been demonstrably more skeptical of the alliance than Clegg, but I agree it is hard to see who is blameless. I do not think it is too late for a change of leader before the election, indeed it may still be a tad too early. Clegg suddenly developing backbone does not seem credible.

    I just posted somehwere else, that it seems to me the right is far more crowded than the left when it comes to parties hunting voters. The place to be has to be the left (of centre!) But the liberals used to have the same attraction that Farage now offers, by being issue politicians. A few core vote winning policies. Which they ditched!

    Farage is a one issue politician, and he is winning. Despite getting by my calcualtion the support of only 8% of all possible voters, he has every party falling over themselves to be nice to eurosceptics. I am, I suppose, rabidly pro-eu, and it disappoints me that no one seems willing to make the case for the EU. Yet at the same time lib, lab and con all have essentially pro EU policies. Sure, fight for every deal you can get, but stay in because there is no better alternative. In reality the fight over the EU is frequently one of political ideology, not nationalism. What politicians object to is the inability to undo what their opposition predecessors set in motion.

    No one is going to shoot Farage’s fox by trying to appease him. Unlike the libs he has not brokn his covenant with his voters, even though those voters are very likely a fickle lot and fewer in number than many seem to suppose.

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