21 November 2011

Charting the rise and fall of Nick Clegg...

An interesting academic take on recent history of Nick Clegg has been published by the LSE.

However I disagree with their fundamental point that Clegg appears to some sort of a victim of events outwith his control and a focus on personalities rather than policy. Clegg's fall (which has brought the Lib Dems down with him) are almost entirely of his own making and failure to communicate Liberal values and Lib Dem priorities in the first six to nine months of the coalition.

The widely held view that Clegg is some sort of lapdog to Cameron is entirely down to the strategy of 'owning the coalition' in the interest of economic stability in the early months of the coalition and the failure to communicate any sort of position over student support. That ground hasn't been made up - in fact the party's position has slipped - since a more argumentative position has been adopted by the party. The public rightly view this as a contrived reaction to the near wipeout the party faced at the polls last May.

But Clegg can turn his ratings (and therefore the party's) around. Earlier this year I carried out some focus group market research for the party in the north of England. The participants were clear that almost all the good will shown to Clegg in the 2010 election had now gone. He wasn’t seen to add anything distinctive to an essentially Conservative government.

But what these voters needed from Clegg and the party was a few clear messages about what the Lib Dems have and will achieve in government – along the lines of the £10,000 tax threshold. They would rather see Liberal Democrat ministers talking about what they are trying to achieve in government rather than justifying essentially Conservative spending cuts.

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