Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Could Clegg really be this Machiavellian?

Bear with me here.

The Lib Dems are in trouble. Real trouble.

If the proportion of people who vote for the party in next year's general election is in the low teens as is looking likely they could lose dozens of seats. They could even be back to the days of the parliamentary party "fitting in the back of a taxi".

But one thing that could ameliorate this is if in many of the seats that the yellows are defending where their challengers are the Tories, the blues do not do as well as the polls are predicting. And one way that this could happen is if there is a big UKIP surge around the time of the 2015 general election thus splitting the vote on the right and saving many Lib Dem seats in the process.

Of course most commentators think that the current UKIP polling numbers will fall back to more "normal" levels, say 5% or so and the dent to the Tories will be minimal.

But what if someone helped the UKIP leader Nigel Farage to raise his profile around a year before that general election? What if the profile raising was done in the forum of two debates between him and another politician, a member of the government which effectively elevated him to the status of a senior cabinet minister? What if Mr Farage was then widely seen to have won these debates, thus demonstrating that his views are very popular, far more so than the 10% - 15% that the polls would have us usually think?

In fact what if the fallout from such debates made it pretty much impossible for the UKIP leader to be excluded from the pre-election debates in 2015?

This could then of course lead to a big bounce for UKIP just around the time they need it to do maximum damage to the Tories and inadvertently help the Lib Dems.

Clegg couldn't possibly be so scheming. Could he?


Richard Morris said...

I'd had exactly the same thought (tho hadn't then it as far as Clegg 'losing' the debate on purpose).

Mark Thompson said...

I actually don't think he lost the debate on purpose. He probably knew Farage would win the post debate polling though pretty much whatever he did and was content with this because of the longer term upside.

Tomsk said...

I had a similar thought about the Clegg shifting the Lib Dems to the right after the general election. Takes votes away from the Tories and leads to a more liberal Labour party thanks to defections:

Now maybe he's trying to trap the Tories in a classic pincer movement... all in revenge for AV ...

Anonymous said...

This is a great little piece and provokes a few thoughts.
In the end, however, I think it's probably a conspiracy theory too far.

More likely Clegg didn't figure that Farage would perform so well.

I have to say though that as a TV spectacle, Thursday's debate was an interesting, high scoring watch.

Anonymous said...

Farage was always up for this, from the minute he heard about debate when he said : "I nearly choked on my bacon roll..." said Farage about Clegg's challenge to a debate. "I have absolutely no choice. I've got to say 'yes'."

Anonymous said...

When it comes to UKIP you only have to look at Steve Hassall. He left the Tories for UKIP, went back again, and now is standing to be a Conservative city councillor.

If Steve wins with greasy tactics - it could b a con

Mark Wadsworth said...

"More likely Clegg didn't figure that Farage would perform so well"

I suspect Farage did not perform very well, but seeing as Farage has all the arguments on his side (whether flawed populist or well-founded anti-coporatist) and seeing as Clegg only had deluded waffle to fall back on…

But yes, "encouraging a few more people to vote UKIP" might have been Clegg's motivation behind it, in which case hats off, fair play and well done him.

Anonymous said...

It wasnt the key purpose, but it factored into the decision.It was a no lose strategy.So long as the Lib to UKIP swing is minimal, both parties are winners.

Anonymous said...

And it was never about beating farage.