Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Liberal Democracy

I'm basically a philistine, and have only just returned to the UK after a month in John Howard's Australian utopia so appear to have completely missed the Newsnight referred to in this article from The Times (thanks to the always great Political Wire)

It tells of a focus group case-study carried out in a marginal constituency (Milton Keynes North East), and contains some interesting points on the challenge confronting Tony Blair (and his considerable electoral strengths), but my attention was drawn to two of Frank Luntz's other conclusions.

Firstly, was the sheer level of contempt raised among voters by images of Blair and George Bush working together (perfectly understandable as this, admittedly tired, internet viral shows). More importantly, was his belief in the potential strenghts of the Liberal Democrats.

It is perhaps going a bit far to read too much symbolic importance into today's defection of a Labour parliamentary candidate to the Lib Dems (especially as Luntz also gives weight to Conservative campaign tactics) but some additional support of this point of view has come from the normally staid pages of The Economist (once again, thanks to Political Wire).

This sober analysis backs the view of the Lib Dems as a 'troublemaker' party, with enough potential clout to rob influential Tories of their seats and chip away at Labour's majority in a way that could have an impact on the legislative agenda of the next parliament. It's well-argued stuff, though the piece ends on an appropriately pessimistic note. Despite Lib-Dem protestations, the main appeal of their party lies to the left. It is difficult to imagine the attraction of this party to those dissatisfied by the Tories (especially given Lib-Dem attitudes to key issues of "race, asylum and immigration"). In addition, if the opinion polls go on showing the Conservatives creeping up on Labour, it seems likely that those lukewarm Labour supporters preparing to register a protest vote against the war may well lose their nerve in the face of a potential Howard government.

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