Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And the Loser Is...

... the Liberal Democrats. This is the worst possible result for the LibDems. Nick Clegg has a mere 1% mandate. He will always have Chris Huhne looking over his shoulder.

Nick Clegg 20,988
Chris Huhne 20,477

Chris Huhne will feel desperate this afternoon. No one thought he would get close to Clegg, but Clegg ran a very unconvincing campaign - uninspiring and anonymous. Huhne actually deserved to win.

However, I say all this in the knowledge that no one should underestimate Nick Clegg. I think he is a very talented politician and will be a more formidable opponent than Ming Campbell ever could have been. He is much closer to the Conservatives politically than Ming or Chris Huhne, and that in the end may be his undoing. His instinct in the short term will be to mark out his own distinctive brand of liberalism. Overtures from other parties will be ignored or laughed at.

But Nick Clegg knows, just as well as most sane Conservatives and LibDems know, that he may play a pivotal role after the next election. It is inconceivable to me that he could work with Labour. If he really wants to "change Britain to make it the liberal society we want it to be", there is only one course of action open to him - to work with David Cameron to achieve it. I listened carefully to his victory speech - there was hardly anything in it which David Cameron ( or indeed David Davis) couldn't have said.

Nick Clegg is the leader of a new generation of thirty and fortysomething Liberal Democrats. These are people who actually want power. They're not content to sit on the fringes and postulate. They want to change things. And they all realise that the only way to do it is to get into bed with a modern liberal Conservative Party after the next election, if there is a hung parliament. Nothing would please me more than top see a majority Conservative government and the Liberal Democrats reduced to a rump. But electoral arithmetic shows that a hung parliament is a real possibility - and the Conservatives and LibDems now have two years to work out how they would deal with it. I certainly don't expect them to do it in public, but do it they must.

UPDATE 3pm: Caroline Spelman has been quick off the mark with the first 'love bomb' with Nick Clegg's name on it...
We congratulate Nick Clegg on becoming the latest leader of the Liberal
Democrats. We hope that the Liberal Democrats under Mr Clegg will join us
in putting pressure on the Government to devolve power to local authorities,
communities and individuals; in our opposition to ID cards; and in our
commitment to social justice and environmental progress. We hope that together
we can create a new progressive alliance to decentralise British politics.
UPDATE: 10,000 fewer people voted in this contest compared to the one inMarch 2006 which was won by Ming.

UPDATE: Nick Clegg's speech can be heard HERE courtesy of Tory (rather than LibDem!) Radio.

49 comments:

Tim said...

You set out the case for Nick very well, not withstanding his low key campaign. As you say, he is talented and ambitious, and (I would say) principled as well. Chris Huhne will support him strongly. This is why the big winners today are the LibDems, who have a far better leader than before, and are no equipped once again to fight for what they believe in. On some issues (such as ID cards), no doubt we will agree with the Tories. Opposition parties always have much in common. But there are, once more, three parties in Britain that are seeking more votes, and more influence. It will be an exciting couple of years for all of us.

Andy Dawkins said...

Surely the result shows the Lib Dems are split down the middle.. Between the, for a want of a better term the rightwingers and the leftwingers...

There may be trouble ahead for the Lib Dems...they cannot continue to try to be all things to all people.

Cicero said...

Well aside from the party political prescript, I think that politcs will, as you say, get a lot more interesting with Clegg. Although in the end I plumped for Huhne, i am quite content with clegg and look forward to a bit more traction, despite the variable political winds at the moment.

Anonymous said...

...its the start of a new Britain.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!

Minger said...

50.6% is terrible for Clegg. The LibDems can't split, they are too limp, but they are just hobbled yet again by indecisiveness.

The Yorkshire Terrorist said...

Ugh.....booooooring. Not many people voted in the end, did they? Probably because most people forgot it was even going on, and the rest don't really care who that bloke in the corner who stands up and get's laughed at by every other MP at QT is.

Anonymous said...

How can Clegg say that the Lib Dems have to be where the people are but then declare that he believes the people are liberal? Surely that means that either the people aren't liberal or the Liberal Democrats aren't liberal.

Manfarang said...

If a week is a long time in politics then two years is an age.
A hung Parliament?Then as in the late 1970s the Northern Ireland MPs may play a pivotal role.

Oscar Miller said...

Clegg's speech could also have been made by Gordon Brown. Change - reaching out - listening. In fact although he doesn't look like Brown and is obviously a much nicer (and saner) person altogether, there is somehow something unconfident and too tutored about him that reminds me more of Brown than Cameron. When Brown and Clegg speak I stop listening. When Cameron speaks I listen. I think Clegg is likeable - but really - if he were as talented as people say he would have run a much much better campaign. He couldn't have had more media support and he still managed to blow it, getting a catastrophically indeterminate result. I think he's going to prove a bit of a dud.

Chris Andrews said...

The large (larger than I expected) vote for Huhne surely must mean that Clegg can't get away with sticking him back on the Environment brief.

The smart play (imho) would be to have Huhne shadowing the Home Office. If he can get under Clegg's skin, Jacqui Smith should be a pushover...

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

More worryingly for Clegg, about the same number voted for him as didn't vote at all.

What does that say about morale in the grassroots?

The Lib Dems are certainly not out of the woods - they're divided, they've chosen an ultra-arrogant leader ("my party" within two seconds of winning) and Charles Kennedy is talking spitefully about the leader being "live" (implying that Campbell was not)!

I don't envy Clegg. But he may be the architect of his own misfortunes if he keeps this up.

Anonymous said...

I'd prefer the Tories to carry on telling the voters what the Lib Dems are really like - unprinicpled, sleazy campaigners who don't hesitate to seek political advantage by being negative and dishonest about their opponents. People need to know that if they want to get rid of Brown, only a vote for the Conservatives will do this.

Fitaloon said...

Who ...?

Anonymous said...

Oh,come on - you don't really think Chris Whoon? has more charisma than Clegg do you ?

the literal democrat said...

What a grumpy old bunch you lot are.

K S Rees said...

I personally thought Huhne would have been the best leader. A good contrast to Brown & Cameron - someone who is substantially different from them both.

Clegg on the otherhand has something of Cameron about him and this is something I'm sure the public won't miss. The Lib Dems should be worried about coming across as second-rate tories.

Man in a Shed said...

On Love bombing;

If he's expecting a group-hug from the Tory Bloggers he's got another thing coming.

John Marston said...

Will the Lib Dems really conclude a pact with the Tories after the next election? It was beneath their dignity to do so after the elections to the Welsh Assembly, which scuppered the prospect of all parties but Labour forming a 'rainbow alliance'. The result: the Lib Dems gave up their participation in Welsh government, and are now part of the opposition.

A case of 'vote Lib Dem, get Labour'.

Anonymous said...

Spelman's tongue must have been firmly in her cheek...

How are the Tories inviting the Lib Dem to join them on LIB DEM policies...

It's breathtaking...

Newmania said...

Iain

You say work with Clegg , and I admit he does not scare the horses all that much but in his campaign he described Cameron as Illiterate ( metaphorically) and made ever so many clear and troubling policy and moral distinctions.
Most of this may have been for strategic reasons but he is is a Euro Nut and I am struggling to see how anyone could put up with anyone quite so disinterestd in our democratic and sovereign rights .

I also wonder if having two such strong and now irreconcileable players will not make the contradictions in the big state high tax "Liberal" party , surface .
Not before time.

Oscar Miller said...

The resemblance between Cameron and Clegg is superficial to say the least. The fact is Clegg is NOT a good communicator as his damp squib of a campaign proved crowned by his vacuous acceptance speech. Cameron connects - and that's not something you can learn, it's something you're born with. Cameron has it. Clegg doesn't. And as time goes by the difference will be ever more obvious.

Andy said...

He didn't even get 50% of their membership of mid 60,000's. He won by 0.7% of the membership.

Sea Shanty Irish said...

Narrow win is NOT a problem, methinks. Flip side to "a miss is as good as a mile". History is repleat with great leaders who rose to power/asscended the greasy pole via hair-trigger margins.

BUT Clegg must move quickly & correctly to get things rolling in the right direction for himself & the party. AND decline in leadership race turnout IS bad news for LDs, esp ppcs.

RE: the overture to the Lib Dems by DAVID CAMERON think this is best understood as electoral strategy first, marriage of convenience long way second (if at all, depends on post EDay numbers) and love match never. In other words, just like Tony Blair/New Labour in 1997.

Achieves two things for Tories:

1) shows Middle England that DC Tories are tough (willing to take a risk) but reasonable (willing to bargain) which is one of the things that most voters really LIKED (and still do) about Tony Blair.

2) throws spanner (size yet to be determined) in the works of Lib-Lab anti-Tory tactical voting machine, which is now performing like ageing Jag: occassionaly brilliant, often sputtery and sometimes dead by the side o' the road.

Paul Linford said...

Clegg may or may not secretly want to "get into bed" with David Cameron. But both you and Cameron must know that his party will never, ever let him do so without a cast-iron guarantee on PR.

M. Hristov said...

Interesting result !!

Not so much because of the fact that Nick Clegg is going to “set the world on fire” (because he isn’t) but because of the possible result of the next election, a hung parliament.

I think that the key to this scenario lies not only in Cowley Street but also at Bute House, Edinburgh.

If the Scottish Nationalists get enough Westminster seats to hold the balance of power then I suspect that Alex Salmond will try and do a deal with the Conservatives. He is a master machiavellian and I think that he will want to entice the Conservatives into a faustian pact, whereby Scotland is given an independence referendum in exchange for support for a Conservative Government in Westminster. The inducement, for the Conservative Party, being the destruction of the Labour Party through Scottish independence. I hope that any such approach will be rejected. We do not want England to end up like Austria. The rump state of a large empire.

The alternative is that the Liberal Democrats get enough Westminster seats to hold the balance of power. They will then, presumably, try to get the Conservative Party to agree to proportional representation. I trust that the Conservative Party will not agree to PR. I suspect that the election of Nick Clegg will make it more likely that the Liberal Democrats would accept a coalition without PR.

It would be very interesting to see what will happen if the mathematics make it possible for both the SNP and Liberal Democrats to hold the balance of power. This would, potentially, put the Conservatives in a very strong position.

I cannot see the SNP allying with Gordon Brown. A Clegg Liberal Democrat party is not likely to, either. I think New Labour is heading for the scrap heap, whatever happens. If the Conservatives win outright, if there is a hung parliament or even if Labour win with a tiny majority. Gordon Brown with a small majority. That is probably a greater recipe for destruction of New Labour than a Conservative win or hung parliament.

robin young said...

The reason Nick Clegg's acceptance speech did not contain anything that David Cameron could not have said is, of course, that David Cameron is capable of saying absolutely anything. Being free of policy commitments is a big help in that regard, of course, and not being able to see anything beyond the desirability of regaining the Conservatives' "right to govern" determines the rest. Mr Cameron appears to riding unwarrantably high in the polls at present. Will it last till the election? Could well be that it won't.

rightsideforum said...

All these lovely banner ads talk of 'excitement' and a new direction etc.

How on earth is this guy going to inspire people to vote when his own party membership voted in far smaller numbers in this election, and gave him a far smaller mandate than any of the main leaders?

He's a slick camera pleaser and that is it.

We have Cameron, a fraud, now Clegg which leaves Brown - who has been a disaster.

We are crying out for a decent conviction politician. Could someone please step forward?

It makes me guilty - I've spent many months bad mouthing Ron Paul, and no, I still if I were an American would never vote for him -but I don't think anyone would deny he is genuine.

We need somebody of a similar nature, only with better political positions. ;)

Anonymous said...

And this matters why exactly?

Ed said...

So which one won?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

...its the start of a new Britain.

More like Little Britain!

Charlotte Gore said...

There's no future for a pro-Labour Lib Dem party. See, I look at the prospect of tactical anti-Labour voting being very successful and I see Tories and Lib Dems alike saying, "no! never!" So, really, better Labour in power than needing to work together to beat them?

It's really in the long term interests of both parties to concentrate the fire on Labour just now, surely?

Pick your battles....

rob's uncle said...

Clegg is on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzO5G4zb6zo.

Henry Rogers said...

Did I mis-hear or did Clegg really say in his acceptance speech that he had just shown what an energetic campaigner he is? Must own up to nodding off a bit so perhaps he didn't.

javelin said...

Something of the Leon about Clegg.

Anonymous said...

I HAVE been out for a liquid lunch, but when I saw Clegg on the telly I thought he looked a bit like Alistair Campbell. Surely not.

litdem said...

Some people are getting very excited that Clegg only just got over 50% of the vote. When did the Conservatives under Thatcher ever get over 50% of the vote?

Sea Shanty Irish said...

M.HRISTOV makes some very interesting points.

RE: Scotland, occurs to me that Tories may be in similar position viz-a-viz Scotland as are CANADIAN Tories with respect to QUEBEC.

Steven Harper is PM in Ottawa because the Bloc Quebecois savaged the Liberals in la belle province. Tories themselves did well in recent Quebec federal byelections BUT the real Tory key to power is their unholy alliance with the separatists.

NOW this is a long-standing tradition in Canadian politics; for example, Tories long played footsie with the seperatist Union Nationale (similar in some ways to the Union Corse; more respectable but less squeemish).

Of course in UK there is no tradition of Unionist + Disunionist cooperation in Scotland, at least none of long standing. But politics do make strange bedfellows. Just ask Ian Paisley & Gerry Adams.

Norfolk Blogger said...

I think you would have written this Iain no matter what the result was.

nick (no, not that one) said...

If we're to believe the latest opinion polls, they may have picked the leader most likely to be around after the next general election. A swing of just over 0.5% to the Conservatives would unseat Huhne in Eastleigh. Clegg's on safer ground. Which party was it that talked of a "decapitation strategy" in 2005?

Chuck Unsworth said...

I found it almost impossible to distinguish between either of the two. And perhaps the close vote indicates that others felt the same way.

In any event, Clegg is going to have his work cut out. He'll be being compared with Cable, or, worse, Campbell.

Atlas shrugged said...

rightsideforum

If you REALLY want to know why such a thing will not and can not happen, read on.

All our leading politicians are selected by the CFR and other such bodies. These chaps now own the British economy more so now then ever before. One stroke of their pens and this economy and your mortgage, job and pension go down the proverbial toilet.

Cameron has the as much power to return us to democratic representative government as a dead toad. Which is only a slightly better chance then Brown or Clegg does.

We are finished as a democratic nation. Get used to it. Turn to the god within you and pray for salvation.

I would gladly be a candidate to become the next prime minister of the UK. I have never told an important lie in my entire life, and have no intention of starting now.

Which is why I have more chance becoming PM, then Ron Paul does of becoming the next president of the US and staying alive for more then a month.

Anonymous said...

Sounds about the right kind of result for the sandal brigade committee.

Besides, who gives a monkey at the end of the day. It won't change anything. The Lib Dems will keep bleating on the sidelines and real life will go on.

ZanderLibra said...

"Get into bed with a modern liberal Conservative Party"!

I think the LDs will be thinking very hard indeed about jumping into bed with either Labour or Conservatives.

Since they jumped "into bed" with the Labour party in Scotland, I sense that many regret it now the SNP have been trying to play that card (by being so blooming arrogant).

A minority government might create some new flair for British Politics (should things be hung)... but liberals will stick to their values, know and prove they are different to the conservatives.

A minority government with some agreement between the conservatives and lib dems is a possibility, but "jump into bed"?

...mmm

Atlas shrugged said...

anon 3:19

I think you answer your own question with that statement.

The Liberal party are many things, but one thing they never are is liberal.

The question is

Will anyone electable in the western world be allowed to be liberal in any true sense of the word, ever.

My contention is; not if they want to live or govern in a solvent country for more then a few days.

Torygirl said...

Boo hoo, sniff! Am obviously totally gutted lovely Huhney didn't win (I still wouldn't say no!), perhaps there will be an X-Factor style backlash with Lib Dem members blaming Royal Mail for not being able to deliver their votes to Party HQ in time....

Cameron himself could've delivered that acceptance speech by Clegg (*hawk - spit*); big govt, loss of personal freedoms etc, etc. Does that really go against him? I'm not all that sure, Iain!

Johnny Norfolk said...

The whole thing is very depressing. The 3 leaders are all just professional politicians who have done nothing else and have no idea of the real world. When are we going to have people that have DONE something.

Anonymous said...

"modern liberal Conservative Party"

Rather an oxymoron. A bit like Cameron, an Oxy-moron. Ho ho ho.

neil craig said...

As you say Iain - if both parties want power they are going to have to negotiate in advance & that will have to be done quietly without others, on both sides, jogging their elbows.

Mind you it would also be nice if any deal actually faced our real problems, such as that we have a growth rate half the world average & 1/3rd of what Ireland manages, so that people could actually like a potential government rather than just thinking them less bad than the other side.

Roger Thornhill said...

I utterly disagree that Huhne should have won on the strength of his campaign. The fact that he almost did suggests that the Lib Dems cleaved to who they viewed as the winner, not the policies...and you approve of that?

Fact is, Huhne came across as a loose cannon at times - Prescottian, even.

"That boy will hang..."