Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Winning Ugly - with Clegg

Barack Obama has confirmed that Nick Clegg is better looking than David Cameron and for the British voter both look pretty ugly at the moment!  With less than two years to run before the next general election it’s time for David Cameron to assess two things: Firstly will it be a good election to win; secondly if it is worth wining is majority government advisable?
The first part of this question is not always given enough attention, more intent on power itself politicians seldom take the time to think of the consequences of failure.  Over the last nine general elections one can safely say that there have been only three elections that have been good to win.  The good elections were in 1983, 1997 and 2003.  The rest in 1970 (Oil Crisis), 1974 (both affected by industrial strife), 1979 (Crisis all round), 1992 (Housing bust) and 2007 and 2010 (the financial crisis) all wrecked reputations with the exception of 1979, which actually made Margaret Thatcher’s!  But she was lucky with the Falklands war, which distracted our attention from the economic mess we were still in.  The jury is still out on whether the 2015 election will be a good one to win and judgement on this will have to wait until 2020, but one might guess that it will be a better election to win than the last one.
It has always interested me that Cameron decided to form a government in 2010, he might have been much better of refusing the advances of the LibDems and taking up opposition as the largest party.  He would then have been able to watch a Labour led coalition drown in economic mess they created and pick his moment to force a fresh election. By taking on the responsibility for austerity and declining living standards Cameron is warning us that he is either na├»ve or more astute that we might think.  My sense is that he is somewhere in the middle but overwhelmingly he actually wants to do good!  It must be the patrician in him.  He routinely makes decisions based on his own moral compass rather than his in own best interest; this is slightly off putting for voters who don’t know where they stand with him.  In retrospect Cameron was lucky with the result of the 2010 election, having to form a coalition government with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats has suited Cameron down to the ground.  The partnership has allowed him to share the blame around for austerity and more importantly it has given him a great excuse for not pursuing a more right wing agenda.
Strangely both the main Party leaders would prefer a coalition with the LibDems in 2015.  It’s not difficult to see how the Prime Minister has benefited over the last 3 years.  The lunatic fringe (quite a substantial minority) of the Tory party have been put on ice and we have been spared much of the small mindedness one associates with the modern Tory party.  Similarly Ed Miliband would benefit from a coalition as he would be able to put on ice the Blairite wing of his own party, who are still after his blood.  We should expect a further warming in the relationship between Labour and the LibDems as we approach the next election.  It is perverse that there is so much demand for LibDem support from their political enemies when the public have spotted their obvious irrelevance.
So for the first time in a generation both leaders want to win but they don’t necessarily want an out-right victory, which is a tricky problem to solve.  The key to this for both parties will be to ensure that the LibDems win enough seats; probably 40-50, to ensure a hung parliament.  The problem is that no one can see Nick Clegg delivering this type of return.
So we should be in for any interesting year or two where Dave will be helping and hoping that Nick Clegg can secure labour seats without eating into his core vote in the South of England.  This could force Cameron into some quite regionally biased programmes, as the Tories have virtually no seats north of Birmingham and the LibDems are in many Labour seats the second party (right hand map below).  We are starting to see some signs in this shift, suddenly there is more money for regional development, eye catching infrastructure programmes for the North have been signed off and money is being pumped in to ease the pain created by the universal credit.
Election results 2010
Who came second in each seat

There are a couple of flies in the ointment for Cameron, most obviously UKIP could be a real danger to his core vote in the south but I expect (and hope) that they will burn out over the next few months.  The second problem is Scottish devolution which would automatically make the Tories the natural party of government – the worst possible result for David Cameron as the lunatics would then be running the asylum.  So it's time to put vanity to one side, David Cameron needs to be comfortable that Nick's better looks will actually benefit his plan to continue the coalition beyond 2015.  Com'on Dave you can 'win ugly'

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