Friday, April 16, 2010

At last the 1983 show? 

Maybe we will see at last what might have happened in 1983.

In that general Election campaign the ‘Liberal-SDP Alliance’ was running close to Labour in the opinion polls, the Tories of course heavily leading. Then a couple of Alliance campaign miss-steps led to Labour being seen as still the main challenger to the Tories and the fight was over. Despite the widespread dislike of Mrs Thatcher, the majority had as top priority keeping Labour out of office.

The smell in the air was that if the Alliance could have pushed Labour into third with two weeks to go the Tory position would have been a lot weaker. Then anti-Thatcher voters would have found somewhere congenial to escape to, and the Alliance would have been in the zone to come second in seats and become the official opposition. I recall being briefed at the time that the Tories had a well-oiled Plan B all ready to go to spend a ton of money attacking the Alliance with pretty grimy tactics expected. In the event we never had to face that bombardment. The alliance leadership was pretty nervous about this prospect, apparently.

Expect a bombardment on the LibDems this time though, from both Tory and Labour. Neither can afford to let us fill the Official Opposition psychological slot. We need to draw on all our reserves of calm…

One question in 2010 is however this: Have the Labservatories actually done the necessary preparation for such a plan B (as the Tories did well before the campaign in 1983) or will they have to do things on the hoof?

Incidentally, one of the 1983 mis-steps sadly was a messed up interview by Roy Jenkins. The Alliance ran him as ‘Prime-Minister Designate’ and he went into an hour long grilling by Robin Day (The Paxman of those times) with all sorts of solid and lofty themes to discuss, only to be ambushed by half an hour of nagging on the Wasted Vote theme that he didn’t have the long Liberal training to handle. Clegg has leaped over the equivalent hurdle with ease this time…


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