Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

As Clegg Jumps Off The Fence, Are the Sandal-Wearers Hesitating?

The Lib Dems, fresh from attacking moves from both proper parties to cut / not increase fuel duties, are once again trying to set themselves up as tax cutters. One can only assume that Vince Cable wasn’t consulted. Guido, as it happens, has already commented along similar lines to those which I have been thinking, but here goes anyway.

Clegg is in an unenviable position. The Lib Dems have long harvested disaffected right-of-centre voters who left the Conservative fold in the nineties and until recently weren’t inclined to return. While the Libs have naturally now started to pick up more Labour discontents (with their classic anti-whoever-is-in stance) a large chunk of their electoral support is still on the right of centre.

When a party see itself on the slide, there is the usual conflict between those who would move more to the centre, and those who would revert to shoring up the core vote. The trouble is, the Lib Dems don’t have much of a core vote. They have the core of activists, who for the most part are clearly of the Left, yet their electorate is mainly of the moderate Right. Somewhere filling in the gaps are the vestiges of classical liberalism – those, that is, who haven’t done the sensible thing and joined the libertarian ranks within the Conservative Party. At least when we Conservatives were in the wilderness, the choice was less stark, effectively being between shades of (a) the “firm” right and (b) right of centre.

So Clegg has chosen a lurch to the right, in a last ditch effort to stop former Conservative voters becoming current Conservative voters again. This will not play well with his activists, who already have a fair amount to grumble about, with lacklustre by-election performances – that is, when they actually stand (the Haltemprice & Howden decision didn’t go down well).

So what next? Once the current strategy fails, Clegg, or his successor, may actually realise that the Libs best chance of avoiding a collapse is to shift to the Left – the natural home of many modern liberals, and one which will set them up as the welcoming committee for all those unhappy Trots.

Either way, this Conservative is quite happy.


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