Nick Clegg’s speech to the Lib Dem Spring Conference in York is intended to position his party as the unequivocally internationalist, pluralist alternative to UKIP. He and his strategists have limited ambitions for the European elections in May, seeking only a two or three per cent bounce: after nearly four years in the abattoir of unpopularity, it would be folly for the party to aim much higher at this stage.
As Nigel Farage grows ever more rhetorically fiery, Clegg believes that there is an electoral group of “soft Tories” to be harvested, Conservative-inclined voters who wish David Cameron would confront Ukip wholeheartedly, instead of wavering between appeasement and polite disagreement. The Lib Dem leader’s speech has been crafted as an appeal to them, as well as to his own tribe – a celebration of Britain’s traditions of compassion, decency, and outward-looking magnificence.
The principal Lib Dem attack on Labour, on the other hand, is an unusual one: namely, that Ed Miliband’s party is “silent”. The Shadow Cabinet would noisily dispute that claim, of course, citing the speeches, policy announcements, Today interviews, cabaret performances, supermarket openings, tombola afternoons, visits to retirement homes and game-show appearances that have kept them clamorously busy. But there is something to the charge of “silence”, too.
In addition to the daily round of Opposition – shouting at the Government and scorning Cameron on the airwaves – Labour has stepped up a gear in its preparations for office. All parties out of power have to go through the motions of readying themselves for government, speaking to senior civil servants, as Labour has been entitled to do since last month (according to the convention established by John Major that such contact may begin 15 months before the end of a Parliament).
Much may happen in the remaining 14 months: Labour’s unity may crumble, the statistical recovery may become palpable to voters, the public may ascribe this happier economic context to Conservative measures, ever-closer scrutiny may do for the Eds. Yet, as I write, the polls suggest that Miliband is heading for an 84-seat majority in May 2015. Quietly, the party is readying itself for this. This week, the Institute for Public Policy Research publishes a fine essay by Liz Kendall, the shadow minister for care and older people, and one of the party’s rising stars, which makes the case for localisation of public services and a bold march by Labour into the terrain once marked out by Cameron as the “Big Society”.
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It is the same scenario as in the U.S. There are now so many immigrants (imported voters) that the left will win elections from here on in (when combined with sappy native leftists and the well-to-do who benefit financially from the immigrants). The tipping point has been passed.