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Will London be wowed by the Clegg factor?

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Tim Donovan | 12:47 UK time, Friday, 16 April 2010

Nick Clegg

So Nick Clegg eh?

Not just a prolific lover in his youth (apparently) but a politician who puts the other leaders in the shade?

It may prove to be akin only to a lower league club winning the first leg of a cup clash, while the giants had their minds on the Premiership.

But may it still have done wonders for Lib Dem gate receipts?

In London, the Lib Dems currently have eight MPs and experts seem to think they fall into two broad categories: safer bets or trickies.

By longevity alone - institutionalised incumbency - Simon Hughes in what was North Southwark & Bermondsey is considered to be in the first camp.

So too Vince Cable in Twickenham whose beatification awaits only a final signature in the Vatican.

The Tories lost Kingston & Surbiton for the first time in their history to Ed Davey, now Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman while Lynne Featherstone won Hornsey & Wood Green from Labour in 2005 at the height of the Iraq War furore.

The trickiest of the trickies is Sarah Teather whose Brent East consitituency is disappearing under boundary changes. She contests the new seat of Brent Central, needing a notional swing of 9% to beat Labour's Dawn Butler whose Brent South seat is also vanishing.

And then there's the cluster of Richmond Park (Susan Kramer), Sutton & Cheam (Paul Burstow) and Carshalton & Wallington (Tom Brake) which went to the Lib Dems in the 1997 Tory wipeout, but which the Conservatives desperately want back.

If a genuine Clegg factor does now emerge, the seats of Hampstead and Kilburn and Islington South and Finsbury look increasingly vulnerable for Labour where the Lib Dems need a swing of under two percent.

However, the instant momentum generated by the outcome of the first TV debate doesn't clarify the conundrums which surround the inceasingly strong suggestions of a hung parliament, and the potential for tactical voting. In fact, it reinforces the volatility and variability of the permutations.

Whether you are an existing Lib Dem voter already or an instant Clegg convert, what do you do?

Do you want Labour out more than you want the Conservatives in?

Do you risk trading your vote in the tactical market?

Are you players? Or are you substitutes not yet clear which side to play on?


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