Political

Mary Ann Sieghart: Nick Clegg’s chance to fill a central vacancy

Writing in today’s Independent, Mary Ann Sieghart says,

The as-yet-untold story of British politics at the moment is that space has opened up again in the centre – for the first time in two decades – and that the Lib Dems are in the best place to fill it. Yesterday, Danny Alexander quoted his predecessor as Highlands Liberal MP, Russell Johnston: “Liberal positioning in politics is like the nose in relation to the rest of the face: somewhere in the middle and out in front.”

The “out in front” has always been one of the most attractive elements of the Lib Dems. Policies for which they were once derided, such as gay marriage, are now becoming part of mainstream political debate. So will legalisation of cannabis one day. The Daily Mail may scoff, but the Lib Dems’ willingness to break taboos, to be in the vanguard, is a healthy part of our otherwise sclerotic political culture.

The “somewhere in the middle” part matters more, though. It is critical both to the Lib Dems’ electoral success and its ability to form coalitions when the electorate delivers a hung parliament.

Ask most voters where they sit on the political spectrum, and the most popular spot is very close to the centre. That was the foundation of Blair’s election-winning genius: he positioned himself – and tried to position his party – as close to the average voter as he could.

You can read her full piece here.

UPDATE: This, of course, is not how things turned out for Nick Clegg. But the opportunity is still very much there for the Liberal Democrats.

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