Saturday, 20 October 2007

Who's afraid of Nick Clegg?

The answer to that question seems to be the Tories. Not only is there a thread on asking whether the Tories should be afraid of Nick Clegg, but a few days ago, the ever-reliable Simon Heffer wrote in the Telegraph that "in answer to the question of which of them the Conservative Party would less like to see running the Liberal Democrats, the answer has to be unequivocally Mr Clegg."

But last night I was out for a few beers with a Tory friend of mine and our conversation naturally turned to the Lib Dem leadership election. He was aware of Chris Huhne and thought him quite capable. On the other hand, he had barely come across Clegg and knew very little about him.

One mistake that people involved in politics sometimes make is to assume that everybody else is as interested in the minutiae of political debate as we are. That just isn't true. And just because people in a political party may think somebody comes across well in the media and is capable, it doesn't follow that the rest of the country does.

So my challenge to the Clegg campaign over the coming weeks is to give us good reasons for thinking that he can attract votes from the Tories and for that matter from Labour. The campaign needs to demonstrate that Clegg can is capable of crafting a liberal vision which can fire people up and attract more supporters from across the spectrum. That will require him to show real substance and that he is not just good at giving soundbites on TV. And he will need to demonstrate that he is just as good as attracting support from former Labour voters as he is at attracting ex-Tories.

If Clegg can do that, both Labour and the Tories will have good reason to fear him.


Charlotte Gore said...

Well, as someone who let their membership of the lib dems lapse under Ming's leadership .. and was very nearly tempted to move to Cameron's camp I can promise you that Clegg is exactly what I was looking for to want to come back to the Lib Dem fold.

It's a personal anecdote, I know, and I'm already quite familiar with Clegg while people external to the party most likely aren't... but it's easy for me to see why the Tories are worried about Clegg. He could force the Tories off to the right, which will haemorrhage their moderate voters to us.

To be honest I was about to vote "anyone but labour" but the thought of being able to cast a positive vote for a party that actually reflects my own political beliefs.. that will make for a refreshing change, that's for sure!

Tim Leunig said...

Surely the point is that people who know Nick (like Heffer, and Charlotte) know that the Tories have something to fear from Nick? He is not well known now, but he will be if he becomes leader. At the last election one lapsed member told me that they would rejoin to vote for Nick as leader, but the other three left them cold.

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