Veteran Thatcherite Norman Tebbit steps into the fray:
Some of the Lefties’ triumphalism at the public reaction to The Great TV Debate was wildly overdone. You might have thought that Cameron broke down and cried, or shouted “We’re all doomed”. He didn’t. He held his own and scored points on the NHS and even, unlikely as it was, on immigration.
None the less, once again the lesson to be learned is that he who lives by the sword dies by the sword. David Cameron claimed the leadership of the Conservative Party as the new broom that would sweep away the old Thatcherite guard who used to go around winning elections and talking about hard choices. His new Conservative Party would be no longer “nasty” but modern, new, compassionate and untainted by the past.
[Liberal Democratic leader] Nick Clegg played the same game and played it very well. Mr Clegg bundled up Mr Cameron with Mr Brown as joint leaders of the nasty old two-party racket that had mismanaged Britain for the last 30 years. He, Mr Clegg, assured us was more modern, more compassionate, more new and utterly uncontaminated with all the nastiness of recent times. Left to him, all soldiers would have all the kit they had ever dreamed of, the poor would be made rich, the sick restored to health, the naional debt washed away with no cost or inconvenience to anyone except the very rich. The Lib Dems, he explained, would deal with immigration without stopping people coming here, they could deal with corruption because they were not corrupt, and bring in a honest electoral system which would ensure that a lot more Lib Dems would be elected.
And he got away with it!
Meanwhile, looking back to 1983, Iain Dale points out here how a Lib-Dem revival could, if it gained enough steam, actually hurt Labour. Given the current political dynamics, that looks too optimistic, but it’s a reminder of just how complex Britain’s electoral math can be.