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Daily View: What does the Liberal Democrat surge mean?

Clare Spencer | 10:00 UK time, Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Commentators grapple with the significance of the Liberal Democrat poll ratings.

The Times editorial considers the change in the political landscape:
Nick Clegg

"People who think of themselves as anti-politics are now expressing a keen interest in what are very much political issues. Britain is experiencing both the thrill and unease that comes from near-total uncertainty about how the country will be governed - not only this year but also perhaps, if the Liberal Democrats were to achieve their objective of changing the voting system, for many years to come."

Philip Stephens says in the Financial Times [subscription required] that Mr Clegg has snatched Mr Cameron's winning card:

"A surge in support for Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats has challenged the fundamental assumption of Mr Cameron's election strategy: that the Tory offer of change would trump Gordon Brown's prescription of more of the same. 'Change' still looks a winning card. But Mr Clegg may wrest it from Mr Cameron's grasp."

Aditya Chakrabortty lists in the Guardian that possible reasons for Nick Clegg's popularity:

"After Thursday night's TV debate, polls show that the Liberal Democrats' leader is almost as popular as Churchill; others describe him as the British Obama. Not bad for an hour and a half's work. Ever since, politicians and commentators have struggled to account for Clegg's transformation. It was the way he looked directly into the camera, we are told. The informality with which he used audience members' forenames. Or a straightforward revulsion with the old politics and its shopsoiled politicians.
"Well, maybe. But there is another explanation for Cleggmania. This one doesn't try to turn a run-of-the-mill politician into Cicero in a yellow tie. And it comes not from Westminster but from economics."

The Independent editorial suggests that the "surge" is good for democracy:

"Success often breeds success in politics. The once potent accusation that a vote for the Liberal Democrats was a waste looks ever more ridiculous as successive polls show them making progress. And the more coverage the party gets in the national media, the more people take them seriously...

"The essence of democracy is uncertainty about who the people will choose to govern. Certainty is the friend of the well-connected and the vested interest. We certainly have a great deal of uncertainty now. Thanks to the Liberal Democrats and Mr Clegg, this election has come truly alive."

As the Liberal Democrats attract more attention, they are also attracting more criticism, including from Andrew PIerce in the Daily Mail who argues Nick Clegg is undeservedly taking the moral high ground on MPs expenses:

"Clegg omitted to mention the Lib-Dems' own rogues' gallery of MPs: Richard Younger-Ross, John Barrett, Sandra Gidley and Paul Holmes. The modern day Gang of Four were ordered to apologise and repay £16,500 in the expenses saga... Perhaps the next time he tries to paint himself as whiter than white, Clegg should be more transparent about his own side's shortcomings."

Political blogger Mike Smithson suggests in his blog Political Betting that the Lib Dems "surge" in the polls may not be soley to do with the TV debates:

"It is almost becoming a short-hand to describe this election. The two party fight became a three-sided contest at 10pm on Thursday April 15th when the first polling reaction to the first leaders' debate had Nick Clegg winning by a mile.
No doubt this is how the dramatic Election of 2010 will go down in political history - but is it actually true? Didn't the move to the yellow team start much earlier?
For a week before the debate, on Thursday April 8, ICM finalised the fieldwork of a poll of key Labour-Conservative marginals for the News of the World. The result was quite startling and was reported on the Saturday evening here under the headline 'LDs blunt Tory progress in the LAB-CON marginals'."

Links in full

TimesTimes | The Changed Election
Financial TimesPhilip Stephens | Financial Times | Clegg snatches Cameron's winning card
GuardianAditya Chakrabortty | Guardian | The economic secret of Nick Clegg's success
IndependentIndependent | This yellow surge is good for democracy
MailAndrew Pierce | Daily Mail | For LibDems, sorry is the hardest word
Political BettingMike Smithson | Political Betting | Is the impact of the debate a myth?

More like this

GuardianPolly Toynbee | Guardian | Here's what Labour can do about the Lib Dem dilemma
TelegraphBenedict Brogan | Telegraph | General Election 2010: the eruption of the leaders' debate grounded Tories
GuardianDavid McKie | Guardian | Churchill didn't win votes on popularity
GuardianRobert Hazell | Guardian | Nick Clegg: the power balancer
TelegraphTelegraph | General election 2010: The Tories have to deal with a stitch-up over the rise of Nick Clegg
GuardianJulian Glover | Guardian | How to burst the Lib Dem bubble?
GuardianGuardian | General election 2010: All change for new politics
IndependentSteve Richards | Independent | Something had to give - and it has
GuardianAnne Perkins | Guardian | Election 2010: 'Vote Clegg, get Brown'
MailAndrew Pierce | Daily Mail | For LibDems, sorry is the hardest word
Political BettingMike Smithson | Political Betting | Is a myth being created about the impact of the debate?
TelegraphNile Gardiner | Telegraph | Does Nick Clegg believe in the NATO alliance?
TimesTimes | A Hung Parliament
TimesTimes | The Other Two
TimesRachel Sylvester | Times | But who will be Nick Clegg's political partner?

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