Deep, ingrained political disillusion, and a consequent readiness to clutch at straws, must be the basic fact behind “Cleggmania”, the Lib-Dems’ dramatic 10% rise in the opinion polls since the first TV debate between the leaders of the bigger parties. But…
But… in the second debate, at least, the points on which Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg marked himself off from the others were all ones on which he was, to some degree, leftish.
He came out against the Trident replacement (though the Lib-Dems want to continue Britain’s nuclear arsenal: they just say they could find some, unstated, cheaper way to do so).
He came out for an amnesty for “illegal” immigrants settled here (though not for any substantive easing of Britain’s restrictive and racist immigrant and asylum laws).
He came out “for Europe” (though, obviously, for a bland bourgeois cosmopolitanism rather than for Europe-wide workers’ unity).
That those messages could win, or at least not lose, him support indicates that there is potential for a serious left-wing message put across with some credibility.
The debate did not touch on:
- the Lib-Dems’ policy for banning strikes in public services; or
- their denunciation of Labour as “in hock to militant unions” (if only it were true!); or
- their “triangulated” policy on the “budget deficit” (cut more than Labour but not as fast as the Tories); or
- the Lib-Dems’ record as cutters and privatisers in local government.
Brown wouldn’t raise those things, would he, where a quarter-way decent labour movement politician would?
But why don’t the union leaders speak out?