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Apr 23

The Rise of Nick Clegg

Posted on Friday, April 23, 2010 in general election, Politics

The HateMail is in complete panic (and can’t stop lying):

A rattled Nick Clegg today sought to defend himself over his claim that the British people have a ‘more insidious cross to bear’ than Germany over World War II.

The Lib Dem leader attempted to laugh off criticism of his astonishing attack on our national pride – in which he said we suffered ‘delusions of grandeur’ and a ‘misplaced sense of superiority’ over having defeated the horrors of Nazism.

Campaigning ahead of tonight’s crucial second live TV showdown with party leaders, Mr Clegg said: ‘I must be the only politician who has gone from being Churchill to being a Nazi in under a week.’

He also came under fire today over donations made to his personal bank account, to which he responded: ‘I hope people won’t be frightened from trusting their instincts by doing something different this time. We have got a very exciting opportunity for real change in this country and I hope we will take it.’

The Murdoch high command can’t stop it:

we learned this morning that James Murdoch and his enforcer, Rebekah Brooks, nee Wade, burst their way into the offices of the Independent to give executives a hard time.

Gosh, that’s pretty uncool, and may suggest that expensive suits at News International are rattled by Cleggmania, which could leave them out in the cold if the Tories fail to win on 6 May.

What seems to have upset them are ads that the Indy has been running along the lines of “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election – you will.” Brooks apparently rang Simon Kelner, the editor-in-chief and now chief executive of the Indy to complain that dog does not eat dog in Fleet Street.

Anyway, the Brooks-Murdoch posse turned up at the Indy’s HQ – now housed in the Mail’s London premises, the old Derry and Toms department store in Kensington High Street, got past security and appeared unannounced and uninvited on the editorial floor.

“They barged in and Kelner had to take them into an office where discussions took place. Rebekah was observed in gesticulating mode,” says my source. The incident was mentioned on Radio 4′s Today programme, where Trevor Kavanagh, a Sun guru, was found to be unbriefed about the whole thing.

The Sun isn’t pulling it off through censorship:

The Sun newspaper failed to publish a YouGov poll showing that voters fear a Liberal Democrat government less than a Conservative or Labour one.

The Liberal Democrats accused the newspaper, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, of suppressing the finding. The paper, which endorsed Labour in the past three elections, declared its support for David Cameron during the Labour Party’s annual conference last October. Like other Tory-supporting papers, it has turned its fire on Nick Clegg over his policies, pro-European statements and expenses claims since he won last week’s first televised leaders’ debate.

YouGov also found that if people thought Mr Clegg’s party had a significant chance of winning the election, it would win 49 per cent of the votes, with the Tories winning 25 per cent and Labour just 19 per cent. One in four people Labour and one in six Tory supporters say they would switch to the Liberal Democrats in these circumstances. The party would be ahead among both men and women, in every age and social group, and in every region. On a uniform swing across Britain, that would give the Liberal Democrats 548 MPs, Labour 41 and the Tories 25.

Even the tactics Craig Murray alleges YouGov has employed to smear Clegg aren’t working. And it’s all a reminder of a change which I think is playing a major part in determining the outcome of this election, namely that these papers used to determine people’s opinions, and no longer do. Political commentators aren’t getting listened to, party political broadcasts and press conferences are getting ignored; the whole process of opinion formation has completely changed. Long-term departure from print media has certainly played a part in this, but for all the talk of an election determined by the Internet, Twitter and Facebook and other social media don’t yet have that sort of power. They are however keeping the narrative of Clegg’s sudden rise (and its desirability) visible and a story in itself.

Also whilst the usual pundits are saying Clegg’s ‘upstart’ narrative is accidental, in truth it seems to have arisen from a confluence of factors which have been bubbling up in political life for some time now, the principal one being that the public now detests politics and politicians alike. They may not know how they want to express it, but Clegg has shrewdly made a strong attempt to do so for them in the first two debates. Could he have done that without the continuing, massive popularity of his shadow chancellor Vince Cable? Probably not – Cable has been legitimising the Liberal Democrats for some time. But conventional wisdom has also long suggested that the British public was eurosceptic, waswedded to nuclear power and nuclear weapons and madly in love with American power; Clegg in the last fortnight has challenged that entire paradigm and has astonishingly been increasingly admired for it. I suspect if he directly attacked the Iraq War (and Afghanistan) in the manner of Charles Kennedy he’d rise even more.

With Cameron giving the impression he wants power because he believes he’s due it, and New Labour now only being a power winning-and-retaining machine, Clegg is far from an ‘upstart’ – he has become the ‘insurgent’, representing tool to move past public’s loathing for the Way Things Were. The first debate allowed him to rise over the top of the biased, distorting right wing press and communicate directly and spin-free with the electorate. Maybe the electorate has been waiting for the chance to  finish the hated New Labour (and its Tory copycat) off, and has seen him as a unique historical opportunity to do so. Cameron’s director of communications Andy Coulson may have already realised this too late – the flip-flopping between dog-whistle politics and the failing ‘Big Society’ message suggests he does, but Mandelson has also been caught flat footed. Johann Hari says:

Rattled, the right-wing press now demands Cameron start publicly thumping the table and articulating the agenda he whispers to them behind closed doors, and can be uncovered in his policy documents: big cuts in public spending, big tax cuts for the rich. But Cameron sees the polling and the focus groups, and he knows the public loathe his real agenda. That’s why his performances in this campaign are so stilted. Once Cameron is forced to address us directly, without being bigged-up by the Murdochracy he has promised to feed and fatten, he withers under the weight of his own deception.

For a moment, the media demonisation of the liberal-left was switched off in favour of equal time and open access – and it revolutionised our politics. If this happened day in, day out, how would our national conversation change?

The conversation has begun to change, and Murdoch, Dacre & Desmond are being kept out of it. Let’s keep it that way.

Apr 19

Will Dirty Tricks Stop Change?

Posted on Monday, April 19, 2010 in general election, Politics

In a sure sign that the @Labservative parties are melting down in blind panic at the sudden rise of the Lib Dems, the dirty tricks may have started to try to cripple what has suddenly become the most popular party in the country. Former British Ambassador Craig Murray noticed this comment:

Just done a YouGov, Mostly about Clegg & LDHere was one of the question“Nick Cleggs says the other parties are to blame for the MP scandals, he has taken money from a criminal on the run, many of his MPs have been found guilty of breaking the rules and his own party issued guidance on how to fiddle the expenses system?”

I’d say that was fairly direct!

There were some 17 other questions re the LD

by sealo0 April 18th, 2010 at 10:33 am

It turns out that questions were asked before the respondent was asked about their voting intentions. Of course the results will reflect the bias inherent in the earlier questions. According to Murray:

Anthony Wells of YouGov (known henceforth as YouGove) admits YouGov asking these “questions, but claims the voting intention question ought to have been asked first. He also points out that the antiLib Dem questions were “Not for publication”.I bet they bloody weren’t.

Yet somehow they made it into the polling process itself. Clearly from the second link above this poll hasn’t affected the Lib Dem surge, but the question remains whether this stunt was put together by YouGov itself to please News International, if it was ordered by Murdoch or if something else happened.  Liberal Democrat Voice opines The Sun was behind this – are they right, and if so will they succeed?