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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

You can contact John in the comments area or email him at j.rentoul@independent.co.uk

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And now for something completely different

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Sunday, 18 April 2010 at 10:48 pm
I've got it all wrong so far; the only consolation being that I'm in good company. So, what if, instead of the Cleggswooners coming swiftly to their senses, it all goes completely bonkers? With YouGov tonight putting the Lib Dems ahead of Conservatives and Labour, it is beginning to feel like that moment one dimly remembers from school days when the teacher loses control of the class. The class knows that there is nothing ultimately to be gained by mayhem but the excitement is just too much fun.

There are only 18 days to polling day and so, although the sober-minded Political Commentator says the voters will start to focus on the real choice between Gordon Brown and David Cameron as prime minister, the human psychologist says why should they? When sober-minded PC protests that Nick Clegg's transparent "now for something completely different" schtick is preposterous for a party that has no serious policy differences with Labour and hardly any with the Tories, the h.p. says, well in that case why not go for the new guy with no baggage? 

Everything I thought I knew has proved unfounded. The opinion polls are usually pretty static in campaigns; the debates will be over-prepped no-score draws; Clegg is an indifferent public speaker.

Now the "Clegg surge is bound to subside" scenario looks awfully like people trying to reconcile facts on the ground with their preconceived notions. There is an alternative scenario in which Clegg performs well in the second (foreign affairs) debate, having a go at Brown and Cameron for supporting the Iraq war, painting them again as the old politics and mixing in a bit of Blair-hating madness just for added edge. (Smaller audience on Sky, but I think it will be live streamed on the web, so that could be the internet election moment.) And is then unstoppable in the final showdown on the economy, with the power of Saint Vince of Toldyouso at his elbow, metaphorically.

If a third of my fellow citizens intend to vote Lib Dem now there may be no good reason why 36 per cent should not do so on the day. Which is what Labour got under Tony Blair last time and could give Clegg the breakthrough of Lib Dem dreams, overtaking Labour in number of seats. If the Lib Dems are on 36 per cent, taking equally from the other two parties, putting the Tories on 30.5 per cent and Labour on 24.5 per cent, Electoral Calculus predicts, on a uniform national swing, and outcome like this:

Con 220
Lab 194
LD   204

Tell me why that isn't going to happen.

Photograph: Reuters

Comments

Watch this space:
iagreewithnick wrote:
Sunday, 18 April 2010 at 10:53 pm (UTC)
http://www.libdem2010.com/

with coming up to 100,000 members this campaign is really starting to take off.
there are multiple efforts including talk of flash mobs, getting the song "yellow" by cold play to No.1 and a viral youtube campaign. Certainly worth a mention :)

Lib Dems, Vote for REAL change.

I agree with Nick
what do you mean, no differences!
dontvotelabour wrote:
Sunday, 18 April 2010 at 11:52 pm (UTC)
The differences on civil liberties are absolutely stark. The Labour party wants to catalogue our entire lives on central databases accessible by every petty official in the country, the Lib Dems have manifesto commitments to reverse all of this. The Labour Party wants to lock people up without trial, the Lib Dems do not. The Labour Party wants us to have identity cards – linked to one of the aforementioned databases – the Lib Dems are committed to abolishing the scheme. The list is almost endless.

There are plenty of other differences if you take the time to actually read their respective manifestos but the civil liberties aspect alone should be enough to make it clear these are very different parties with very different beliefs.
Re: what do you mean, no differences!
matgb wrote:
Monday, 19 April 2010 at 01:11 am (UTC)
Exactly.

In 1997, when Mr Blair had rifled through LD policies and cherry picked the stuff he understood, the parties were similar.

13 years later?

Massive differences, on so many issues.
As the poet said...
johnjustice wrote:
Monday, 19 April 2010 at 12:55 pm (UTC)
This is all a classic case of "humankind not being able to stand very much reality".
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