The real meaning of Nick Clegg

The true significance of a breakthrough by Nick Clegg could be far greater if it extends beyond winning an X Factor vote for best performer. Vernon Bogdanor in the Times explains how both a hung parliament and electoral reform now look like serious runners and would change the shape of British politics more fundamentally than Home Rule for Scotland, Wales and NI. But there are dangers for the Union he argues, in the Conservatives’ plan for English votes on English laws. Vernon doesn’t say so but his case is a powerful argument for voting against his old pupil David Cameron.
Adds For the first Leaders’ Debate, the TV ratings were surprisingly good. I wonder if they’ll hold up for the other debates?

The first ever UK televised leaders’ debate attracted an impressive 9.4 million viewers on ITV1 last night, beating Coronation Street and EastEnders to become the most watched programme of the day.

Audience breakdown for the debate by quarter-hours

8.30pm: 8.758 million/36%

8.45pm: 9.459 million/37.5%

9pm: 9.896 million/38.6%

9.15pm: 9.593 million/37.3%

9.30pm: 9.324 million/36.4%

9.45pm: 9.261 million/36.4%

Vernon Bogdanor extrs
The general election puts into the melting pot not only the first- past-the-post electoral system, with its natural accompanying single-party majority government, but also the unity of the United Kingdom itself.
Until recently, the Liberal Democrats were the only leading party proposing a change in the electoral system, and their advocacy could easily be dismissed as special pleading. Labour, however, now promises a referendum in October 2011 on the alternative vote. This is a landmark event marking the first occasion since the war that a governing party has specifically proposed electoral reform.

If the electoral system is reformed then, of course, hung Parliaments will be the norm, for no government since 1935 has been able to win half of the vote.

The hung Parliament of March 1974 occurred at a time of rampant inflation, but the minority government that resulted was paralysed from taking remedial action for fear of losing the second general election that was to follow in October.
But there is another sort of hung Parliament, the sort that we saw in Scotland before 2007, where two parties — Labour and the Liberal Democrats — join together in a stable coalition, based on a written agreement, and with a definite time limit. That is the model that the Liberal Democrats hope to transfer to Westminster

  • Garza

    ITV/COMRES POLL: Cons 36%. Lib Dems 35%. Lab 24%. Jesus Christ!

  • Prionsa Eoghann


    Watching Clegg lst night, especially in the era of style over substance…………got me thinking.

    Say the Lib-Dem’s do so well that Labour can no longer own the right to claim for themselves as the only viable alternative to the scary Tories. I can see this impinging on the heartlands in Scotland where people still mainly vote labour out of fear of the tories. Causing labour to push hard on the two-horse race fallacy.

    Could it be that the Lib’s are the eventual architects of Scottish independence?

  • jtwo

    Hmmm…This was not a voting intention poll but a panel of people who watched the debate and then gave their voting intentions afterwards.

    This is not a national random sample of the population – 46 million people – but a sample of the 9 million odd who watched the debate and we have no certainty that the sample even speak representatively for them.

    More sober analysis here

    For example:

    “The instant reaction won’t necessarily be the same as the longer term reaction. That will depend on what narrative comes out of it in the media.

    “To give an example, in the 1976 Presidential debate instant reaction polls apparently showed that the public thought Gerald Ford had won.

    “Only in the hours and days afterwards did attention focus upon his gaffe over Soviet (non)-domination of Eastern Europe, meaning in longer term the debate was a victory for Jimmy Carter.”

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Well of course Eastenders and Coronation Street have an omnibus edition and indeed can be watched later on BBC3 and ITV 2…….and ITV+1
    If after the third debate is shown the three debates are shown as a four and a half hour show then I doubt its figures wuld be that high.

    Still in part the entire novelty of a Presidential debate (and hopeless storylines in the Soaps) made it “must watch” telly.
    Equal time gave Clegg equal credibility.
    And will boost Lib Dems (in the south west???) where it wont really impact on Labour.
    I dont fear a hung parliament ……but the real fear is a National Coalition of all the talents (sic).

  • Drumlins Rock

    FJH, in the south its seems as if the minor party in a coalition seem to pay a heavier price at the polls for government shortfalls, ie. the PDs and Greens, is that risk the Lib Dems might face? personally I still would sway towards the stable government principle of two party systems, but its far from ideal.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Msg 5
    Yes thats true but the Libs would be bigger than PeeDees and Greens. The Greens as their disintegration shows are a pressure group not a real party so they are unstable anyway.
    The Libs of 2010 are a different lot from the 1970s types.

  • Garza

    As a Lic Dem at heart I am delighted at Nick Cleggs performance last night and hope the country really consider this a three horse race.

    I am only envious at my fellow Brits that they can vote for the Lib Dems in this election. So voting for the Conservatives will do for now.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Garza, there is some kinda link between the Alliance Party and the Lib Dems……in fact it looks slightly more integrated than the Tory-UUP link.
    I expect your hero Mr Clegg will be over in Belfast soon (Iceland volcano permitting) to boost his AP colleagues.
    But perhaps your “fellow Brits” comment indicates a commitment to unionism that is bigger than your “liberal” credentials.

  • Garza


    I am a liberal unionist and I’m proud of that fact.

    As for Alliance, I am aware with their relationship with the Lib Dems but they need to sort out their pretentious smarmy attitude before I consider voting for them. Aside from the obvious trolls on Slugger, Alliance people online here piss me off more often than far-right wing unionists and republicans combined.

  • Mack

    If the Lib Dems (Whigs really does sound better though) get into power and get to bring in PR, they’d probably become the natural party of government.

    Much like they’re European sister party Fianna Fáil. Halycon days for property developers ahead.

  • slug

    The PR system that Brown is pushing is AV. That would be a worry for SF as it would lose them WT, FST, NAr, and possibly MU to be replaced by SDLP.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Garza,….liberal unionism has a long tradition in my lifetime………… P O’Neill, Ferguson, Bailey, MCivor. Oddly most ended up in the Alliance Party.
    I also have more time for the extremes than I do for the AP.
    But to their credit they are relatively harmless.

  • Garza

    You can buy “I agree with Nick” t-shirts, buttons, caps and mugs lol.

  • cynic47

    Easy for Clegg to promise much without having to explain how he would actually deliver. Sideline politics is the easiest with no track record to be challenged. Cameron was just OK and I thought that Brown didn’t do himself a lot of harm either. Very sanitised programme I felt with everyone on their best behaviour and using first names. Give them boxing gloves next time and lets witness a real slog!

  • PaddyReilly

    That would be a worry for SF as it would lose them WT, FST, NAr, and possibly MU to be replaced by SDLP.

    Just as well, SF don’t do Westminster so they shouldn’t worry. But the Liberal Party aren’t pushing for AV, they’re pushing for something more like the Stormont system. And Labour probably have lost their chance to influence such change.

  • Scaramoosh

    Odds on overall Tory majority now greater than Evens as YOUGOV poll puts the Liberal Democrats in second place, and beliefs go that Cameron is stuck in the middle,as he may have to swing to the right if he is to manage to take a pop at Clegg in next debate (undermining his long molded middle of the road persona);