The Thick of It


Thursday, December 02, 2010

No more mister nice guy

The Economist is there to make me feel guilty. Guilty that I don't read it often enough. Guilty that I'd feel a better person were I to read it regularly. I read it today and found two articles resonating with me. One speculating that the Lib Dems are losing their branding as the "nice guys" of British politics and the other suggesting that Labour needs "to find an updated, outline version of Tony Blair’s election-winning Labour philosophy, combining respect for markets with a belief in strong public services, but fitted to the no-money age."

An election is unlikely to take place until 2015 but the fault lines of party politics are shifting already. We have a coalition for the first time since the second world war. The Lib Dems are in power for the first time since the first world war. Labour is out of power for the first time this century.

Nick Clegg went into the election with a sky high reputation, suffered a poor election result but was rewarded with power. The "sacrifices" made to secure coalition already look like proving fatal for the Lib Dems. Sooner or later "ordinary voters start to think of the Lib Dems and the Tories as a sort of amorphous “coalition party”, if that happens Clegg will be the loser.

At the same time Labour have a huge opportunity. A gap is likely to appear which will need to be filled with only one party able to credibly oppose and argue against the coalition. The faster it works out how to do that the better or it may find that the fault lines have shifted yet further, requiring another reinvention.

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