One point that no-one I heard speak directly made, but several implied, at this year’s EPOP conference for political scientists* is the power of political messages which are repeated by different political parties.
That was a significant part of the Conservative Party success at the May 2015 general election. Their message about hung Parliaments and the SNP was very similar to the SNP’s own message about hung Parliaments and itself. It was in both of their self interests to talk up the likelihood of a hung Parliament in which the SNP would be a major force, and moreover a force that would be used to pull Labour leftwards.**
That two conflicting parties were both agreeing on the basic story, even if one viewed it as good and the other as bad, gave it extra credibility in the eyes of the public, as well as getting it extra media coverage.
In a slightly different way, two parties agreeing on a message was part of the reason for the Conservative defeats in 1997 and 2001 – both Labour and the Liberal Democrats agreed privately some common ground for attacks on the Conservatives, again giving them extra credibility and getting them extra airtime as a result of being a multi-party message.
Which leaves an intriguing strategic choice for the Liberal Democrats seeing a socialist who has often expressed very illiberal views heading up the opposition and under attack from the government, whilst the government is pursuing an illiberal line on civil liberties which said socialist has at times been good at opposing. Which voices should the Liberal Democrats choose to amplify and give credibility to?
* Plus one hobbyist.
** Oddly really in some ways when you look at the SNP’s record in Scotland and how much of it is traditional right-wing authoritarianism. A right wing Conservative Home Secretary would find it much easy to make policy deals with the SNP than a Liberal Democrat in that post.