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Day: July 20, 2011

Something fishy is going on in the cabinet as Nick Clegg starts to sense having the upper-hand

Anyone who watched the Prime Minister today give a statement to the House of Commons along with taking questions on the matter can’t have failed to notice two things. To the left of the PM sat George Osbourne who looks as though he had swallowed a gallon of sherbet bit his face was so sour and grum and to the right of the PM sat Nick Clegg who could hardly even look at the PM. He sat looking constantly to his right and away from the PM looking like he couldn’t even look at his child he was so disappointed in him.

Of course the likelihood is we (well I) are (am) looking far too deeply into this but you have to think that Nick Clegg is not a happy bunny. His body language screamed out that he wanted to be anywhere else but there. Is this because he had to postpone a holiday or is it in fact more to do with the fact that had David Cameron listened to his and Lord Ashdown’s rather strong advice to get rid of Andy Coulson then the government wouldn’t be under so much public pressure.

It is now well known that it was Andy Coulson himself who went to bat after the first Prime Ministers debate last year and planted the bad stories about Nick Clegg in the media. Coulson himself went out of his way to discredit Clegg personally more so than his party. A personal attack is never a good thing but considering the attack didn’t do enough to stop Clegg wielding the power of kingmaker it was a failure.

Clegg would have to go work with Coulson as Cameron refused to get rid of him. Now a year or so later Nick Clegg sits there able to look at David Cameron and tell him that he was wrong. The moment when the Deputy Prime Minister can look in the face of the PM and tell him that he made a mistake – a mistake that he had been warned about – the situation changes. Cameron himself now knows that Clegg is not a fool and has the upper-hand but privately – and publicly – on one big issue – the Murdoch’s/News International/Andy Coulson – and Cameron can’t do a damned thing about it.

The Tories can sense weakness in Cameron and the longer this story drags on – and it shows no sign of easing up any time soon – then the longer Cameron will be twisting in the wind wondering if his world will come crashing down around him. Suddenly it isn’t Chris Huhne who is the talk of the town. David Laws is a year removed from being a story. Vince Cable was proved right to want to attack the Murdoch Empire and Nick Clegg quietly sits watching from the sidelines unable to even glance at his boss.

Not that long ago Nick Clegg was derided by many but you just don’t hear people talking about him any more – and that my friends is a good thing. ‘No news is good news’ they say – well no news about Nick Clegg means that he’s not doing anything wrong and if he’s not doing anything wrong then he’s probably doing something right. Ed Miliband looks great and sounds great and I’ll grant him that but having an opposition within is a far bigger problem for Cameron at the moment. The Tory backbenchers are decidingly unhappy and then there is Nick Clegg and his pals. They were right all along and they don’t even have to gloat – Cameron knows it and for the PM – that is his biggest problem of all.

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Nick Clegg making up lost ground with young voters

A year or so ago Nick Clegg and his party was the voice of the young person. Ready to go into bat for them on the one issue that young people cared deeply about – themselves – and not paying for going to university. Then the coalition happened and tuition fees are shall we say not the Lib Dems finest hour. I still believe that the money would have been found from somewhere to fulfill one of our biggest policies had we recorded the stunning victory that the manifesto was written for but in coalition you can’t get everything – something I really do not believe a lot of people understand but that is another matter entirely.

Well unsurprisingly Clegg’s approval ratings have been in the tank for a long time but now there is a glimmer of hope. A post entitled Opinion Polls show Clegg leading Miliband with younger voters to get rid of this corruption shows a ComRes poll that on the face of it is typically bad for Clegg and the party but as the author shows if you look closely at the number you’ll see that in the 18-24 age ground Clegg is far more trusted than Ed Miliband (15% to 10% with DC on 17%) and in the 25-34 age range he is tied with Ed M (9% with DC on 25%). The fact that in every age range bar 65+ more than half of those asked did not trust any of the three major party leaders is rather depressingly but I’m not going to look into that in this post.

As I’ve banged on about before the likelihood of the Lib Dems winning an outright victory in the next 10-15 years is slim to none – the chances of a Liberal Democrat government are either a long-term goal or something spectacular has to happen. We saw that Iraq didn’t provide a spectacular moment so the likelihood of one happening is low. So it is about long-term aspirations and planning. If young people vote more for the Lib Dems than the other parties then as the young people grow older they’ll carry on voting LD and the young people reaching voting age will vote LD if we keep up being the champion of young people.

For the past 100 years or so people have been brought up with a straight choice – Labour or Conservative. The chances of taking lots of votes from dye in the wool Tories or Labour voters is low in all honesty. We have to continue to try and tell the electorate (and most notably young people) that there is a third way. Momentum is key in many things and politics is no different. Had Greece not collapsed when it did then I firmly believe the 2010 General Election would have seen the Lib Dems bring in 20-30 more MPs. Our pro-Europe stance and relaxed nature surrounding immegration scared some voters. Had Gordon Brown not called Gillian Duffy a bigot then he might well still be PM – or at least David Miliband would be.

Momentum is key but five years is a long time in politics. The Lib Dems can’t wash off the stain that is tuition fees but the stain can fade away. Some people will never trust us again but they are lost. Keep plugging away and trying to do the right thing and things will come good. The party nor Clegg are tainted in any way shape or form with Rupert Murdoch and News International. That will curry favour with people and will enhance our reputation as the clean party. If being clean and open about politics becomes a major factor then we’ll be in pole position to sweep up a lot of the floating voters.

So this poll whilst being encouraging in one way should be seen as a moment for us to look closely at ourselves. What are our ideals and goals. To me it is we want to give everyone a chance in life and a good start. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be the best person that they can be. Your background doesn’t matter. We are all human beings whether you are rich or poor, black or white and with no pre-concieved ideas for who we represent we aren’t pigeon holed in our ideals.

Younger people are naturally more utopian and enlightened. That is just the way the world is these days and they hold the key to the future. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and whilst that is true to some extent, what you can do is teach them that a fairer future for their kids and grandkids is the best legacy that you can leave them.

The Lib Dems to me shouldn’t care about buzzwords – i.e. bankers – and should concentrate on being fair and planning a future that is fairer for all – not just for one section of society – which is how the other two main parties see it. A kid from Buckinghamshire deserves as much of a chance at a future as a kid from Hackney. Money only does so much. If every school was as good as the next then that is fair. If every hospital was as good as the next then that is fair. A post-code lottery is not fair. If we can stand tall and keep to some of these basic principles of fairness for all then we’ll attract support from people who believe in that.

Some think that not representing a section of the electorate is a weak point. Whilst it might be today, tomorrow is another day. The world is changing and having a goal to represent one and all is a great one to have. The Lib Dems to the core believe that everyone deserves the same chance and that is way I am becoming firmer in my belief that this party needs the support from people like you and me.

People aren’t born losers. A baby is just born. Why one baby has a better chance to live a better life compared to another makes me oh so incredibly sad. It may be a hard goal to aspire to but what is the point of not setting that goal high? The gap between the have’s and have not’s is far too high and it is far too unfair. That is what I think we stand for and that is why I hope (and this poll shows) that despite a setback that we can win over the utopian idealists that are young people.

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