It's appropriate that the polls are showing the Lib Dems surging into second (and in a couple of polls first) place following the leaders debate on Thursday just at the point when the largest event in the Snooker calendar, the World Championships at the mighty Crucible (coincidentally in Sheffield, Nick Clegg's patch) start. Because frankly, as far as I can see the other parties are now pretty much snookered when it comes to their options of how to deal with the Lib Dems and Clegg. Let's have a run-down of the sort of things they will be war-gaming and indeed that we have started to see being played out:
Sunday, 18 April 2010
1) They can hug Clegg and the Lib Dems closer. The problem is they were both trying this last Thursday to varying degrees and all it did was make Clegg look more important and as if he is the cool kid that everyone wants to like them and to be like. Hence all the "I agree with Nick" stuff. This has surely already contributed to the Lib Dem poll surge.
2) They can try and attack the Lib Dems on policy. However, firstly this plays into our hands as Oscar Wilde once said, there is only one thing worse than being talked about and that's not being talked about. It will allow us to respond with more detail on what are well worked out and well costed plans. It also means that the media is focusing on us even more. If Brown and/or Cameron do this too much during the next two debates it also plays into Clegg's hands by allowing him to continue to make the point that they are doing politics in the same old tired and discredited ways.
3) One thing I have noticed is that some Tories seem to think that going for the Lib Dems on immigration will be a good strategy. They might just want to refresh their memory of the 2005 campaign and how quickly they were able to be painted as "same old Tories" when they tried this on then. And also what the eventual result was.
4) They can try and argue that a vote for the Lib Dems is a vote for a hung parliament and that would be dreadful. The Tories are continuing to try this one on. The problem is that recent polling suggests that that is the outcome that scores the highest in terms of what people actually want to see of all the possible outcomes. So they are actually scaremongering that something could happen that people actually want. Is that really smart politics?
5) They can try and argue that "a vote for Clegg is a vote for Brown" or the other way round that "a vote for Clegg is a vote for Cameron". The problem is firstly that people are again sick of hearing this sort of nonsense. But secondly, now the Lib Dems are polling at or above the same level as the other parties it is now patently absurd. A vote for Clegg is a vote for Clegg. Simples.
I'm not sure there are many other options open to the other parties now either. The media narrative is with the Lib Dems and who would have thought I would be writing that a couple of weeks ago?
Unless one of the other leaders can find a way to come off three or four cushions with just the right amount of side then they could find it very difficult to get out of this particular snooker.