Political Promise

Why Clegg’s victory heralds a fundamental shift in British Politics

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Elliot Colburn’s article made some pretty rubbish assumptions – it said for example that a poll of 4000 people wasn’t representative. Most national opinion polls stop calling people when they have about 1000 responses. He also said that a vote for the Lib Dems was “wasted and a joke”. How about in Guildford, where the Lib Dems require a swing of 0.2% (about 200 votes) to take the seat back from the Tories (they won in 2001)? Nobody could seriously argue that a Lib Dem vote is “wasted” there, or that Sue Doughty, Lib Dem PPC and former MP, is a “joke”.

Anyway, Clegg’s debate victory was statistically significant. Even on the night every poll taken suggested he “won”, even though they disagreed by how much – some put his approval at 69%, others at 43%.

However, what we have seen since is a massive shift in properly sampled, nationwide polls putting the Lib Dems in genuine contention for the largest share of popular vote – several polls put the Lib Dems in first place in the Sunday Papers (like BPIX in the Sunday Mirror), although all 3 parties are now so close that the margin of error (normally about 2%) means that nobody’s lead is statistically significant.

What we can say from that mish-mash of uncertainties, weightings and statistics is the debate had a game-changing significance on the election outcome – it is now truly a 3-horse race, in spite of what the Labservative spin machine is currently claiming. Lord Adonis has been telling Lib Dem voters to choose Labour to keep the Tories out (because we apparently agree on everything…) and David Cameron was yesterday saying that a hung parliament would be bad for Britain (entirely false – if the government has to win an argument to get its policy through, its policies will be better, and if he really understood economics he would know that.)

There is one conclusion to be had from the conflicting polls – even if we had an election today, and the Lib Dems came out with the highest vote share but not by much – say 33% – they would still have considerably less seats than Labour or the Tories in Parliament (on the dubious assumption of uniform national swing.) They need to hit 38% to even come level with the other two. This is an illustration of the huge injustice of the First Past the Post voting system. I am personally in favour of much wider constitutional reform than my party are proposing, but Single Transferable Vote (STV) in individual seats would stop tiny variations in vote share (9 or 10% is often enough in the UK) from handing incontestable power to one party alone.

But the really positive thing that has come out of this TV programme is more political debate. The Tories have sent out William Hague to have a good poke at our policy on Europe, which has so far been absent from the campaigns of all but UKIP. Suddenly Trident has become an election issue that divides the parties (Labour are now saying they are willing to negotiate with Lib Dems on nukes). This has greatly widened the zoom-lens of media focus, and will draw more people into following the campaign as the issues that are important to them are finally required.

Even if the Lib Dem’s new-found swing is lost again in the melee of the campaign, this result means this country’s politics – the standard of debate, widening of concerns on issues – has been improved.This election has finally caught the nation’s interest, and a few less people will be disengaged – and that is undoubtedly something this country badly needs.

Joe Jordan

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  1. Good realistic analysis.

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