Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Nick Cleggs EU gamble: Is it a good idea to portray the Liberal Democrats as the most Pro-European Party?

Nick Clegg attacks UKIP

This week, Nick Clegg came out strongly in support of Britain's role in the EU, saying that voting UKIP would wreck the economy, in an obvious attempt to reach out to former Liberal Democrat protest voters who may plan on voting for UKIP at the next European Elections this May. Clegg argued that a UKIP win in the next European Elections would panic businesses and reduce investment in the UK, as businesses would then have to contend with a Conservative Party that may switch even further to the right than they currently are in the event of a UKIP win, and Britain would then be flirting with exit from the European Union.This is the first serious campaigning ahead of May’s elections which are now less than five months away.
In this way, Clegg attempted to portray himself and his party as the main opposition to Nigel Farage. Is it a good idea for the Lib Dems to take such a Pro-European approach?

I think that it is. Clearly, given his party’s current Westminster polling position and its record of doing poorly in these elections, the LDs could struggle even to win a single MEP. There is also the possibility that they could finish fifth behind the Greens. In his New Year message Clegg says: "UKIP want out. The Conservatives are flirting with exit. And Labour don’t have the courage of their convictions on this." The Clegg argument is that a strong vote performance by UKIP in the election will send out the message to business that Britain is less than fully committed to the EU which could make it more cautious about investing in the country. A big UKIP vote could undermine the recovery, and also most likely would shift the Conservative Party even further to the Right, and have more draconian Conservative policies that have previously been blocked by the Lib Dems.

The Liberal Democrats have a record of doing extremely poorly in these elections, and given that they are running at an all time low of 8% in the opinion polls, Clegg and his party have nothing to lose. The big question is whether this niche approach, going for the continously shrinking Pro-European segment of the electorate, will help improve what would otherwise probably be a disastrous Liberal Democrat result. The only problem for Cleggs attempts to prevent a UKIP win is that the voters most likely to vote for his party in this election, are former Lib Dem voters who are leaning toward Labour, reducing the chance of a Labour win (Who are 1st in the polls) and increasing the chance of a UKIP win, who are 2nd.
Perhaps he would better serve his anti-UKIP campaign by keeping his mouth shut.
Nick Clegg ponders his parties European Election prospects

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