Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Nick Clegg Effect explained

The Lib Dems' amazing surge in the post-TV debate opinion polls proves how hungry the British public is for progressive policies.

Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron must be pulling their hair out in frustration for agreeing to a Leaders' debate with the Liberal Democrats.

They obviously underestimated the risks, because the moment they accepted a debate with someone largely unknown to the public and alternative to the tired old Tory/Labour choice, Brown and Cameron gave up their exclusive right to a duopoly - a privilege resulting from a rusty, old-fashioned, bicephalus voting system.

The moment a third party was allowed the same air-time and the same chances as the other two, the public were handed a preview of what a fairer political system would look like.

The last ten years in British politics resulted in a succession of political raspberries blown at the public. In spite of overwhelming public opposition or scepticism, Labour and the Tories fundamentally agreed on most things that matter: foundation hospitals, the Iraq War, tuition fees, the banking system as well as the £100bn nuclear deterrent called "Trident".

Time and again, even when two thirds or more of the electorate disagreed, the public had policies rammed down their throats and not a chance in hell of finding their voice represented fairly in Westminster.

The press robotically go on about the BNP benefitting from Labour's crisis but, if anything, the recent surge of sympathy for the Lib Dems (and the Green Party as well) suggests that the majority of disillusioned former Labour voters are looking to the Left and not at Nick Griffin's knuckle draggers instead.

The Leaders' debate proved that the British public are not as right-wing and conservative (with a small 'c') as the dynamics in Westminster would indicate.

Of course, it helps that Nick Clegg is a slick communicator and a fantastic debater. He looks new, young and on the ball. But what lies behind his rising star is the fact that the British public are tired of hollow formulas like "tough-times-ahead" and "we're-all-in-this-together". They're hungry for clear, factual and -why not- often progressive policies.

And in fact, with the possible exception of immigration, the Lib Dems are at their most popular when they spell out policies that sit to the left of both the Conservatives and Labour. Take a look at three examples.

Opinion polls confirm that Nick Clegg's fierce opposition to Trident is backed by an overwhelming majority of the electorate. Most British people don't think that £100bn should be spent on a nuclear defense system that was designed for the Cold War, the USSR and Frankie Goes to Hollywood singing "Two Tribes".

Similarly (and this is a point Nick Clegg will have to insist on at the next debate), 84 per cent of the public agree with the Lib Dems that people earning less than £10,000 should not pay a penny in tax. Rather than an arcane system of wage top-ups and other benefits, it would be a lot fairer if low earners and pensioners were lifted out of taxation altogether.

This would give most workers an extra £700 each year. Those on the breadline would certainly notice the difference: 4m people in the UK earn less than £10,000. The public would much rather money was spent on this than the Tories' manky tax break for the married or Labour's expensive weapons of mass destruction.

The same again with the so-called "Mansion Tax". The Lib Dems propose that, in times of crisis, people owning mega houses worth over £2m should pay a little more on their properties. Over three quarters of the electorate agree. Compare it with the Tories' proposal to cut inheritance tax for the super rich. It is so unpopular that David Cameron doesn't even have the guts to mention it while he's on telly.

1 comment:

socialist sam said...

What you are not saying, though I'm hardly surprised, is that Clegg is a right-wing man. Two or three cunning ideas dressed up as 'progressive policies' for the gullible don't hide his views on economics and the free market.

And look where he stands on immigration? How can any supposed leftist support a party that suggests confining people to a specific region or area of the country on the basis of their ethnicity!?

That is appalling. According to Clegg and his party, if a migrant workers is sent to, say, Dorset, he won't be allowed to move to Surrey or Yorkshire. Aside from being appalling, how are they suppose to police all that?