In series of tweets this evening, former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg ruled out going to the House of Lords with the words “Ermine just isn’t my thing”. He lost the Sheffield Hallam constituency in last Thursday’s election. Nick Clegg was MP for Sheffield Hallam from 2005 to 2017 and was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats from 2007 to 2015.
He didn’t rule out a return to The House of Commons but he did hint that he would he would make his voice heard as a journalist with a link to his article yesterday in the FT.
Of course I wish I was still MP for Sheffield Hallam – a wonderful place full of wonderful people – but that was not to be. 1/3
The former leader of the LibDems Nick Clegg lost his seat last night.
The ex-deputy Prime Minister was ousted from his Sheffield Hallam constituency by Labour. Jared O’Mara took the seat with 21,881 votes vs Clegg’s 19,756.
‘”I have always sought to stand by the liberal values I believe in but I have encountered this evening what many people have encountered before tonight and I suspect many people will encounter after tonight which is, in politics, you live by the sword and you die by the sword.” He said after his defeat.
“We saw that in the Brexit referendum last year and we see it here again tonight, polarised between left and right, between different regions and nations and areas of the country, but most gravely of all, this huge gulf now between young and old.
“My only plea would be to all MPs, including Jared, from all parties, is this, that we will not pick our way through the very difficult times that our country faces if in the next parliament MPs of all parties simply seek to amplify what divides them.”
This is the Brexit election. It was called because of Brexit. It will define Brexit and all of the parties have Brexit at the core of their manifestos.
The Conservatives are asking us to back a hard Brexit. Lowering immigration at the core and would come at the expense of a trade deal if necessary. In Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech in January, when she warned that “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”.
Labour wants a soft Brexit. Keir Starmer MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, set out Labour’s approach to Brexit: “We will scrap the Government’s Brexit White Paper and replace it with fresh negotiating priorities that…will have a strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the Single Market and the Customs Union”.
A voteThe Liberal Democrats leaves the option to Remain. Leader Tim Farron said ” the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping Britain in the single market. We believe the British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU”.
That’s right, we can remain in the EU if enough people vote for the LibDems but the polls say that’s not happening. Perhaps people don’t understand or believe that we have the democratic option to reverse a decision that was more about the political ambitions of a bunch of old Etonians than it was about the future the 65 million.
The Lib Dems launched their 2017 general election manifesto today with the title: Change Britain’s Future.
Brexit is the top issue. The LibDems are committing to a 2nd referendum on the Brexit deal, with the choice to reject the deal and remain in Europe.
There is also a promise to invest £7bn in schools and colleges and help for young people to buy their first home for the same cost as renting. They are pledging an £6bn a year for the NHS paid for by raising income tax rates by 1p, with £1bn of that money ring-fenced for mental health care.
Tim Farron the Lib Dem leader says “Theresa May and Nigel Farage have put our country on a perilous path, towards a bad Brexit deal and weaker public services. This election is your chance, your choice, to change the country’s direction. Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to keeping Britain in the single market. We believe the British people should have the final say on the Brexit deal, including the option to remain in the EU”.
Of the three parties that have dominated politics in the UK for the last century, it is the Liberal Democrats that seen their support collapse in the run up to the current election. They believed that in joining a coalition they would see more sunlight and their credibility would rise. In truth it took just months for their share of support in the nation to fall from 23% at the election to less than 10%.
Their support has bumped along at around 8% and no-one has been paying them much attention. With the new nationalist kids from UKIP and the SNP now on the block, they just haven’t been getting the airtime.
Whether its desparation for attention or a genuine strategy the LibDems have been playing the election for laughs in the last few days. When Grant Shapps hit the spolight for allegedly tampering with Wikipedia the Lib Dems put out a press release from Paddy Ashdown saying “Grant is a wonderful guy – he is a credit to the Conservative Party …and if, like me, you have been lucky enough to meet him, you know you have been touched by greatness. Quite simply, a colossus.” Nick Clegg also suggested that it might have been Michael Green (an alias Shapps has used in the past) that was responsible for the edits.
At the weekend when Cameron forgot which football team he supported the LibDems created an Error 404 page that said “Just like David Cameron’s loyalty to Aston Villa, this page does not exist.
It’s a good gag, but maybe not enough to turn the tide.
At the start of the week Lord Ashcroft published his latest batch of polls, this time from Scotland. Perhaps the biggest shocker was the 29 point deficit to the SNP faced by LibDem Danny Alexander, in his seat in Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey.
Today it’s the LibDem leader’s turn. Lord Ashcroft announced today that it had come to light that the poll he had published for Sheffield Hallam included a mistake in the data. The corrected data means that rather than having a three-point lead Nick Clegg should have been three points behind Labour.
In search of a headline however The Telegraph, The Independent and Channel Four News all carry the line that Nick Clegg is on course to lose his seat. Perhaps he is, it looks as though he was, but a November poll is no basis for a February headline.
Nick Clegg seems to have dropped off the popular political agenda according to Google Trends.
The service is a is a fascinating way of finding out what people are interested in over any given period. Based on Google Search, the Trends site shows how often a particular search-term is entered relative to the total search-volume. It also allows comparisons between search terms. Entering the names of the five main party leaders produces some interesting results.
Cameron is way out in front which is not too surprising for a sitting PM. Nigel Farage is a good second place suggesting that the media obsession with the UKIP leader is reflected in public interest (chicken or egg?) Miliband is a poor third but the Deputy PM is neck and neck with Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, someone with up until now a profile so low it was almost invisible. Although over the whole of January there have been more searches for Clegg, in recent days the Green leader appears to be overtaking him. That’s a worrying trend for the LibDem leader.
David Cameron is giving his public backing to a £15 million Thatcher Museum at the same time as The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, National Rail Museum in York and Bradford’s National Media Museum face the threat of closure as a result of Treasury cuts.
The Prime Minister wants a museum modelled on the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California. The memorial to Margaret Thatcher is likely to include a selection of her suits and handbags. The announcement comes just a few weeks after the controversy over the multi-million pound tax-payer bill for Lady Thatcher’s funeral.
Meanwhile the Science Museums Group which comprises the the three Northern Museums will see a £6 million cut in its budget in George Osborne’s spending review later this month. The severity of the cuts may lead to the closure of one or more of the museums.
Thatcher ‘s policies greatly amplified the so-called North South divide and Cameron risks further losing popularity North of Watford with the insensitive timing of his backing for a Thatcher Museum. The northerm museum cuts have already caused outrage with a huge on-line campaign and over 20,000 people signing a petition in 24 hours.
Withington MP John Leech, the Liberal Democrat culture spokesman has condemned the cuts and praised the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry: “It is part of our fabric here in Manchester, it inspires the hundreds of thousands who walk through its doors every year. I’ve raised this in Parliament as it’s vital we retain this fantastic museum for future generations.”
Many political aficionados were beyond surprised when David Cameron appointed the former News International apparatchik Andy Coulson, to manage his communications. Coulson was already tarred in the hacking debacle but Cameron felt he should have a “second chance”.
That decision was either a cold, calculated gamble to garner the powerful endorsement of the Murdoch empire in the run up to a general election or it was spectacularly naive. Either way it has backfired on the prime minister. Twitter is alive with condemnation and News International are hanging Coulson out to dry with the revelations that he authorised payments to the police. Is this a shot across Cameron’s bows by Rebekah Brooks?
A full public enquiry will undoubtedly turn the spotlight on Cameron and how much he knew or should have know about Coulson’s activities. It will also be very uncomfortable for a number of high-ranking members of the metropolitan police.
This has implications too for the coalition. It provides a once in a parliament opportunity for Nick Clegg to revive the fortunes of the Liberal party on an issue that isn’t part of the coalition agreement.
It’s not surprising that the leaders of a party so long in the wilderness should be politically naive. However the extent to which the LibDems are bearing the brunt of opposition to Conservative policy, particularly on tuition fees, must amaze even the most hardened Tory strategists.
Vince Cable famously said of Gordon Brown that “the House has noticed the Prime Minister’s remarkable transformation in the last few weeks from Stalin to Mr Bean”. Cable himself has made an equally remarkable conversion from Father Christmas to Ebenezer Scrooge. The LibDems today fell to just 8% in the polls. Translated into an electoral vote, that would actually mean fewer seats under proportional representation that they have now.
The mistake that the LibDem leaders made was to join the Tories in a full coalition rather that a confidence and supply agreement. In doing so the Tories would have had to agree to enact more of the LibDems’ manifesto and politically the LibDems would have avoided being tainted as a full coalition partner in an unpopular government determined to cut spending . They would certainly have not been dragged into supporting a policy on university fees that they so clearly opposed.
To regain popular support, they must return to the path of principle and it is likely that those who vote with their conscience today will emerge post-crisis at the helm. The alternative is to continue to take the rap for the cuts and to consign Liberal politics to political history.
Posts about elections and politics in general with a particular interest in how social media impacts on the political process.