The key selling point about Clegg is, as Montgomerie notes, that he is the “anti-politics” candidate. But this is entirely bogus. From his enthusiasm for deeper integration within the EU, to his lack of concern over mass immigration, to his loopy greenery and to his loyalty to the conventional pieties of poltical correctness, Clegg is a stereotypical representative of the liberal establishment that is the very essence of “politics as usual.” He is a perfect mandarin of the political class that has done so much to turn British voters off politics (and has done so much to wreck the country while it was at it).
It’s worth adding that, contrary, to the public image of the Liberal-Democrats as (to quote John O’Sullivan), the herbivores of British politics, they are well-known in political circles for their profoundly unpleasant, bare-knuckled approach to politics, particularly at the local level, and particularly at election time. If they are like that in opposition, who knows what a stint in government would bring.
In a normal season, it would be reasonable to expect this bubble to burst very shortly, but these are not normal times. Besides, as Montgomerie tells us, time is short, and as the hysteria over Diana’s death reminds us, the Brits are more prone to strange irrational enthusiasms than they once were. Could they vote for Clegg? Yes. They. Can.
And while we are on the topic, note this from Rod Liddle in the WSJ:
The total number of people voting for the two main parties has reduced enormously over the last 20-odd years, even though the electorate has expanded. Back in 1987, when Labour suffered a catastrophic, near-landslide defeat to the Conservatives, the party still polled many more votes than it did in 2005 when it won a near landslide against the Conservatives. To an extent this incremental disillusion has been disguised by our first-past-the-post system; Labour and Tory candidates have still been elected, but with much smaller raw majorities.
But the big change, particularly evident in 2005, has been the hugely increased votes for the other parties — not the Liberal Democrats, whose vote has stayed pretty much static over the last 20 years — but the Celtic nationalists in Wales and Scotland and, increasingly, a strange bunch of fringe monkeys in England. The middle class right-wing vote has been siphoned off to the politically incorrect, mildly xenophobic U.K. Independence Party, which advocates withdrawal from the European Union. The working class right-wing vote has been siphoned off to the more vigorously xenophobic British National Party, a thuggish agglomeration of racists, Holocaust deniers and former Hitler fans and which last year won two seats in the European elections. And the middle class left-wing vote has seeped away to the Greens, whose manifesto puts them well to the left of the views espoused by Britain’s two Communist MPs nearly 70 years ago.
It is probable that the Greens will win their first ever parliamentary seat, down in our denuded equivalent of San Francisco — Brighton. It is possible, although unlikely, that the BNP leader will win the seat of Barking in London’s desolate white-flight hinterland; certainly it will win a whole bunch of council seats and hugely increase its vote. UKIP will rip away at the Tory vote, especially in the south west of England.
Why has this happened? It is largely a consequence of the two main parties abandoning their core votes and concentrating, with ever more sophisticated polling techniques, on what it perceives to be the crucial 500,000 or so swing voters in marginal constituencies. Oddly enough, these swing voters would like not to be taxed too much but do not wish to see cuts in public services, and other mutually exclusive aspirations.
As a consequence the political debate between the two parties has become a delicate high wire act where the goal of each has been not to offend this tiny tranche of the population. And so nothing really gets said. Vote for hope, not fear. A fairer future for all. We will not raise your taxes and we will not cut your services. More even than the expenses saga — which still rumbles on, incidentally — it is this which has convinced increasing numbers of the electorate not to vote at all, or to vote for one of the “other” parties. One of these days, in an election not very far from now, the two main parties will discover that they have, brilliantly, secured every single one of those swing voters — and everybody else has left them.