Archive for the 'Nick Clegg' Category


Wiping out the Lib Dems might have been Cameron’s greatest strategic mistake as Prime Minister

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Cable Loss

Picture: The apotheosis of the Tory targeting of the Lib Dems at the last general election.

Why Cameron might still be PM if the coalition had continued after May 2015.

When David Cameron reflects on his earlier than anticipated departure as Prime Minister I wonder if in hindsight he’ll regret his and Sir Lynton’s Crosby targeting of the Lib Dem held seats at the last general election. At the time the 27 Tory gains from the Lib Dems was hailed for its brilliance and stealthiness, whilst the architects of the plan were lauded to the point one of them was awarded a knighthood.

But much like Hannibal defeating the Romans in the early part of The Second Punic War, Cameron may have won some battles but ultimately lost the war (to stop the Tories banging on about Europe.)

So imagine the EU referendum had taken place under another Con/Lib Dem coalition

With Nick Clegg’s greater experience of European Union affairs, Cameron might have obtained a much better renegotiation deal than he achieved. One of Cameron’s great misjudgements in the EU referendum was to spin the he deal obtained as a great deal instead of the reality of it being a middling to tepid deal at best.

If the referendum had happened under another Tory/Lib Dem coalition I get the feeling the Lib Dems would have insisted the franchise for the referendum was much more broader. You could have seen them insisting European Union citizens resident in the United Kingdom and sixteen & seventeen year olds having the vote, I think the former alone would have been more than enough to overturn Leave’s 1.3 million majority.

The Lib Dems might have also stopped some Tory errors  such as tax credit changes, academisation of every state school, and the junior doctors’ contracts that caused David Cameron’s government so much trouble since May 2015. Whilst in coalition, much to the chagrin of the their coalition partners, the Tories appropriated as their own some of the Liberal Democrat policies such as the substantial increase in the  personal allowance as a Tory policy. 

Had Cameron and his government not taken so many unpopular positions since May 2015, far fewer people would have taken the opportunity to use the referendum to give Cameron and his government a kicking.

Instead people wouldn’t be speaking about David Cameron as a latter day Lord North nor would David Cameron’s final ratings with Ipsos Mori sunk to an all time low for him. 

With a majority of only 12, Theresa May is another Tory leader who might find out that the Tory party is composed solely of “shits, bloody shits, and fucking shits” with the knowledge that the last three Tory Prime Ministers have been destroyed/had their Premierships ended by EU matters, coupled with the hunch that those Lib Dem voters who switched to the Tories at the last general election in those 27 seats won’t find Theresa May as electorally appealing as David Cameron, especially in light of her more authoritarian tendencies. All of this might present an opportunity for the Lib Dems to recover at the next general election.

If Labour does come to its senses and replaces Corbyn soon, by 2020 it might well be that David Cameron will be the only Tory to have won a general election, and a majority in the last twenty eight years, something his critics within the Tory party might wish to reflect on.



This morning’s must read

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

The Guardian have a fascinating and detailed piece on the Lib Dem time in government, it is clear how much reneging on their pre-election tuition fees pledge damaged the Lib Dems and the events of May 2014 and the failed Oakeshott attempt to remove Clegg, Vince Cable’s reputation isn’t enhanced by this story.

Nick Clegg discussed resigning as Liberal Democrat leader in the wake of the party’s humiliating reverses in the European and local elections in May 2014, an investigation by the Guardian has revealed.

In a sign of the immense toll taken by four years in coalition, the former deputy prime minister experienced what his mentor and former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown described as the “darkest of the dark nights of the soul”. Clegg consulted several senior colleagues about whether he had become a barrier to the party’s message being heard and whether he should go.

Clegg made numerous phone calls to discuss his position a year before the general election in which his party was reduced from 56 seats to eight. He told one colleague: “If I believe – and I am very close to thinking it – I am the problem and not the solution, I have to stand to one side.”

One senior Lib Dem who spoke to Clegg at the time said: “I told him, ‘You don’t have that luxury – this is your burden now, you have to carry it through to the election. Whether you believe that or not, it’s tough-titty. You can’t now put this down until the election. You can do it after the election if you want, but you can’t do it now.’”

Clegg was talked out of quitting by Ashdown, as well as by his most likely successor, Tim Farron, and most of his closest advisers. They told him to stay in post and fight to defend the cause of liberalism at the general election.

Regarding the impact of the (inaccurate) national polling

It was clear that the Tories had struck gold with their warnings about a possible tie-up between Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP. Voters’ fears were exacerbated by the false impression in opinion polls that the election was a neck-and-neck race between Labour and the Tories. “Our vote was being seriously eroded by the Labour/Salmond thing,” Ashdown recalled. “There was a sort of hidden army of people who were so worried about Labour that they literally came out to vote for the first time.”

I suspect had the Lib Dems stuck with their pre-election tuition fees pledge and Clegg had resigned in May 2014, the outcome of the General Election (and future General Elections) might have been very different for the Lib Dems, that’s something that’s going to spark much discussion among we political observers for years to come. Instead on May the 7th the Lib Dems ended up playing the role of Anastasia Steele to the electorate’s Christian Grey.

The Guardian article is available here



Nick Clegg’s next career more should be to run for Mayor of London

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Away from the LAB leadership there’s been a bit of a buzz about today about Nick Clegg’s future with the extraordinary suggestion that he should be his party’s candidate for Mayor of London in the election next May.

Although the final outcome last week was devastating for his party for the LDs he emerged, in the eyes of some, with his reputation enhanced which was reinforced by the manner and dignity of his resignation last Friday. Clegg relishes campaigning and this clearly showed.

Wouldn’t it be a great idea, one senior Lib Dem staffer told me, if the former DPM was to run for mayor. The ex-DPM leader is 48 and far too young and spritely to consider retirement.

What makes the mayoralty so interesting is that Boris is standing down and there’s a lack of potential contenders in the two main parties with the name recognition of Clegg. Labour’s selection looks as though it will be between Tessa Jowell and Sadiq Khan while there are few obvious choices for the Tories.

Clegg has built up a close attachment to London politics with his long-running weekly phone-in slot and LBC.

The history of London mayoral elections is that individual candidates matter more than parties. In 2000 Ken won standing as an independent against the official LAB candidate. He was re-elected in 2004 by tapping into support right across the political spectrum. Both Boris’s victories in 2008 and 2012 have been underpinned by non-Tories switching to him.

I’ve no idea whether Nick is aware of this speculation or what his view would be but it does make a certain amount of sense.

This morning I bet at 100/1 with William Hill that the official LD candidate would win in London next May. I love long-shots like this and sometimes they come up.

Mike Smithson


And so now we turn to leader resignations triggering off 3 leadership contests

Friday, May 8th, 2015

A problem for the LDs is that there are only eight MPs to choose from. Front runner must be Tim Farron and my guess is that he compete against the North Norfolk MP, Norman Lamb.

Mixed message from Farage in his resignation speech

Mike Smithson


ICM phone poll naming Clegg has him holding Sheffield Hallam thanks to tactical Tory voters

Monday, May 4th, 2015

ICM have conducted a poll for the Guardian in Sheffield Hallam, seat of Nick Clegg.

Nick Clegg is on course to be saved from defeat in his Sheffield Hallam constituency by a tide of tactical Tory votes, according to a special Guardian/ICM poll conducted in the deputy prime minister’s constituency.

The poll puts Clegg on 42%, seven points clear of his young Labour rival, Oliver Coppard, who is on 35%. Ian Walker, the candidate for the Conservatives , is on 12%.

But Clegg achieves his seven-point lead only because almost half the people (48%) who say their nationwide preference is for the Conservatives are planning to support the Lib Dem.

When ICM asked voters which party they would prefer if they put the local context and candidates out of mind, Labour is out ahead, on 34%, with the Lib Dems on 32% and the Conservatives on 21%.

A couple of caveats, the  sample size for this ICM is 501, half of what we see with the  Ashcroft polls, and on the raw numbers, Labour’s Oliver Coppard is ahead, but looking at the unskewed the numbers is often the route to being wrong as Dick Morris found out when predicting Mitt Romney would win in 2012.

But this polling fits in with my own thinking about the seat, Nick Clegg in this seat is more popular than the national polling indicates.

Clegg’s personal ratings are better on his home patch than in the national polls: overall 48% believe he is doing a good job, five points more than the 43% who believe he is doing badly.

That five-point net positive rating is less than David Cameron’s +14 among Hallam voters, but better than Ed Miliband’s -12 and Nigel Farage’s -20. But none of the national politicians, Clegg included, fare as well as Coppard who scores +19.

The other interesting aspect of this poll is that by naming Clegg it has an effect on the polls, which could render Lord Ashcroft’s marginal polls inaccurate, which don’t name the candidates, and had Clegg losing. This could be great news for the Tories and Lib Dems in England, and the Unionist parties in Scotland if naming candidates is the most accurate way of polling a constituency.

We’re going to find out in a few days time, who is right.

The ICM data tables are available here



David Herdson asks: Where’s Cleggy?

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Solving the riddle of the election’s missing man

Two Kings and a Joker is the hand the media traditionally aims to deal the public in their coverage of general elections. They don’t always manage to do so as it depends on the real-life characters available but the battle for No 10 is usually best told as a contest between two big parties with a wild-card element thrown in.

That wild-card has usually been the Lib Dems, or the Liberal-SDP alliance before them. Would they ‘break the mould’, or at least make substantial gains, and if so, at the expense of who? Several times it looked as if they might; usually they didn’t. Most spectacularly, Nick Clegg’s party led several of the campaign-period polls in 2010 following his success in the first debate only to wind up with fewer seats than they’d started off with once the voting had taken place. But that’s to get ahead of ourselves: the point is that the Lib Dems’ progress was a central part of the coverage of that campaign. By contrast, this year, both Clegg and the wider Lib Dem team are notable only by their absence.

The reason is simple enough: there’s a different Joker. For a long time it looked as if Nigel Farage was being set up for the role. The election of several hundred UKIP councillors in 2013/14, their victory in the European elections and the two MPs defecting to them – consolidated in by-election wins – all pushed UKIP to polling scores regularly in the higher teens and sometimes into the twenties, scores which would have seen them make further Westminster gains if realised on May 7. Since the New Year, however, UKIP has gone backwards and now looks at least as likely to make net losses as net gains. No story there then even if, as is still probable, they finish third in the popular vote.

Instead, of course, it is the SNP which has produced the Joker and to which the media (and rival parties) have turned their attention – with good reason. Virtually every poll since the referendum has pointed to the kind of landslide swing in voting intention for Westminster that the SNP has already achieved at Holyrood. There’s a strong probability that they’ll have the third-most MPs after the election and will not only sweep Scottish Labour from the pre-eminence they’ve enjoyed at UK general elections since the 1960s but reduce them to a taxi-cab of a delegation. It’s the kind of dramatic story that none of the other potential Jokers – nor the Tories or Labour for that matter – have been able to deliver.

Sturgeon gate-crashing the party hasn’t changed the Two Kings and a Joker formula though, with the result that the Lib Dems, UKIP and the Greens have received only perfunctory coverage. Nick Clegg might have been granted the occasional TV appearance but the Lib Dems still have five other cabinet ministers: when was the last time you saw or heard from any one of them?

Does that matter? Apart from the question of lost deposits, you might think not. After all, the seats they’re really interested in are those they hold and those they think they can win; constituencies where they’ll already have a very strong ground game. Considering that Cleggmania didn’t help them particularly in those sort of constituencies in 2010 the reverse ought to hold true this time: a collapse in national support among those who have little direct contact with the party will not necessarily feed through to places where the party is strongly established – or at least, not to the same extent. On the other hand, the lack of any national media presence or policy impact has reduced their candidates to effectively a collective of independents.

A more pertinent effect will be the indirect one on the Con/Lab battles. With no means of attracting them back, the dissipation of the 2010 Lib Dem vote is now hard-wired into the voting patterns in those constituencies. In effect, Sturgeon might be causing Labour havoc north of the border but she’s done them a favour south of it.

David Herdson

p.s. One factor not being sufficiently taken into account in considering what might affect voting during the remainder of the campaign is the royal birth. Reports suggest that this will very probably happen before polling day and if so will be the lead story for two or three days. Obviously campaigning will continue but for those swing voters, particularly those whose involvement in politics extends to casting a vote only once every five years, a lot will have their own attention distracted and all will see far less that might make them change their minds.


The GE2015 prospects for Clegg, Salmond, and Farage are all dependent on tactical voting either for or against

Thursday, March 19th, 2015


So what combination will fail to be elected on May 7th?

One of those attending the PB party on Tuesday, a long standing lurker who has never posted, told me that one of his favourite bets at the moment was the then 50/1 he’d got that Farage, Salmond and Clegg would all fail to be elected at the election.

This was pleasing to me personally because the market on which combination of the three would make it was one I’d designed and suggested to Betfair Sportsbook.

    Election betting is always more fun when it is about people and with each case of Clegg, Salmond & Farage you can make a case that they won’t be elected.

Of the two current party leaders and one former leader only one of whom at the moment is an MP, Nick Clegg, and in Sheffield Hallam looks to have the biggest fight on his hands. The polling that’s done been suggests that LAB could take the seat a fact that has attracted many party activists to join the fight to oust him. This of itself could be Clegg’ salvation because it might encourage CON voters to back him to stop LAB.

Farage is if course the marmite politician – you either love him or you loathe him and he’s clearly got a tough fight in the three way marginal of Thanet South. He might be saved by the anti-UKIP vote being split between CON and LAB.

Salmond is seeking to get back into the Commons in the current Lib Dem seat of Gordon where the incumbent is retiring. A challenge is that the area voted overwhelmingly for NO last September and the Ashcroft polling did not have the SNP in as strong a position as in other Scottish constituencies. If there’s the anti-Salmond/SNP tactical vote bandwagon takes off he could be hit.

Latest prices on the combinations of who’ll be elected.

All 3 6/4
Clegg and Salmond 3/1
Farage and Salmond 11/4
Clegg and Farage 9/2
Salmond only 8/1
Clegg only 25/1
Farage only 25/1
None 40

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


Norman Lamb, my long-term bet for Clegg’s replacement, moves a step closer to being a leadership contender

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

The Indy on Sunday is reporting this morning that a number of the party’s peers and MPs have approached him about being a candidate should there be a post May 7th leadership contest. It reports:

Speaking before the Lib Dem spring conference in Liverpool this week, Mr Lamb admitted he is thinking about running.

‘When people raise this with me it inevitably makes you think, in the circumstances envisaged, what would I do?” said Mr Lamb. “I have to answer the question. I’m fiercely loyal to Nick. I always have been, but at some point there will be a further [leadership election] and I will consider the position. I am open-minded about it. My view is if people think well of the job that I’ve done [as Health minister] and people then, as a result, conclude they want me to have a go for the top job, then I will consider it.’

Lamb is one of the strongest LD favourites to hold his seat (N Norfolk) at the election and has the backing of the party establishment. The latter is usually the determining factor in the party.

He’s seen as a very safe pair of hands who in his own low key way is a highly effective communicator. My guess is that the party grandees would prefer him to Farron who is popular with activists.

I first got on him at 25/1 in April 2011. He’s now into about 6/1.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble