Nick Clegg has today claimed that voters are finally hearing his admittedly very timid message on what precisely the Lib Dems are doing for them, apart from indebting their children to an insane degree. Unfortunately, having only heard the enchanting whispers of his closest viziers inside the Westminster bubble, he is completely unaware of the utter betrayal felt by the majority of those that voted Lib Dem in the last election. The coven surrounding him has apparently ignored the fact that the Faustian pact he made with Cameron will cost perhaps hundreds of Lib Dem councillors their seats, and the political career of a thoroughly decent ex policeman standing for London Mayor.
It is a fact that most voters do not vote for the candidate, but for the party. In this case, Brian Paddick could promise to end poverty in the East End, cure all known disease, and silence Bill Cash, and he would still be tarred with a brush that says “Yes, your flagship, single-reason-I-will-vote-for-you policy is to massively improve education, but the last time your party said that over half of those in a position to do anything about it actively voted not to, or abstained which is even worse”. If a brush can say all that of course.
Brian Paddick is in an unenviable position of being what is nominally the third party candidate. In the last mayoral election, where the top three candidates were the same and the Lib Dems hadn’t yet been in government, Paddick still only got 9.8% of the vote. Assuming the decimation of the rest of the party spreads to him, he is in for an absolute drumming. The polls for the past month don’t look as cataclysmic as they might, putting him at somewhere between 5-10% vote share, which is up from the 2% YouGov had for him in early 2011, though pollsters tend to advise a four % swing either way is feasible so maybe he’ll get -2% of all votes cast.
The advice that poor policeman Paddick should take is the following: Pull out of the election tonight. If the Liberal Democrats come behind UKIP or, if the Bromley voters have their way, the BNP, it will be the end of an electable Lib Dem party for years. London shouldn’t be a bellweather for the rest of the country’s politics, but it is; it’s just the parties involved are different. In Scotland, the SNP can take up left wing issues in opposition to a once dominant Labour, in Wales Plaid Cymru are doing the same. Both have sound policies, albeit with an unpleasant aftertaste of nationalism, and neither need a liberal party. Northern Ireland has never really hosted the main political parties, and now in England there are so many minor parties that the Lib Dems aren’t even considered as a protest vote anymore.
Even if the assumption is wrong and Mr Paddick does spectacularly well, scoring 15-20% for example, this would be a major disaster for the party faithful. Nick Clegg and sons would take this to mean that people actually do agree with what they have done, and press on kowtowing to the tories for the next three years of this parliament, meaning many more defections . It is not a pleasant catch-22 for any paid up member of the party.
I realise Brian won’t pull out, as he has been called on by the party to be a sacrifice to Ken and Boris for a second time, and no doubt some small part of him thinks he can win. He can’t. Luckily in the London elections the voters are allowed to put down a second choice. We need that to be Ken.
Whilst he has been an inexcusable idiot on occasion, think of the alternative. Four more years of Boris. Four more years of nothing at all. Ken achieved things such as the congestion charge, the ill named Boris Bikes and he at least attempted to reduce poverty. Alexander Boris de Pfeffer Johnson, of the House of Hanover, cousin to David Cameron, has done nothing tangible, except show the rest of the world that in British democracy it isn’t your policies that get you elected, it’s your hair.