Anti-political feeling seems to be reaching its nadir. Following the Clegg v Farage debates the polling is in. In the short term the polling suggests that the debate went very well for Farage and disasterously for Clegg. This much would seem obvious. The Lib Dems are down 4% to 9% and UKIP are up 4% to 15% – a record equalling score. Yet, in the long term it could be that the debate is Clegg’s win. If he prevents total annihilation at the Euro polls on 22nd May he will have done well – convincing enough people to actually turnout in May will achieve this. Then if he can rebuild his party’s poll rating in the run up to the 2015 ballot he will come out well. Alternatively, he could fall at the first hurdle – then Clegg and the party is in big trouble. Clegg seems to have suffered principally at the hands of those who were reminded that they don’t like “normal politicians”.
Meanwhile, that record equalling polling for UKIP spells disaster (at the moment) for the Conservatives. The worst thing in the polling is that it shows how the Maria Miller debacle took away from any bounce for the Conservatives in the Budget. It is then, perhaps, surprising that the Tories barely fell at all.
In the meantime, the Populus aggregate data for March sets out clearly that the big voter shift since 2010 hasn’t changed. Ed Miliband’s LAB is very reliant on those Lib Dem voters from last time who switched in the first year of the coalition staying on-board. They make up such a big part of its current supporters base and represent a shift to LAB that is equal or greater than the increase in the CON vote between 1997 and 2010. Lib Dem switchers represent almost one fifth of the Labour vote.
That is why Clegg entered the debates with Farage. He was never going to win them – he wanted to get out of the pack as the pro-European candidate. If he can win enough votes in the seats which they want to hold onto (and according to ComRes/Channel 4’s excellent piece tonight Lib Dem voters think better of the party where they hold the seat – and are far less likely to defect) they could keep a chunk of seats. All of this could leave the Tories with the biggest share of the vote and Labour with the most seats. If the coalition negotiations seemed strange in 2010, this time the constitution could reach breaking point.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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