Thursday, April 22, 2010

New kid on the block in UK politics

Well, he's not really new, having been leader of the Liberal Democrats for over two years, but for most of that time he wasn't really seen as a going concern. That may be changing:

A week ago this morning, it was still possible to refer to Nick Clegg as a fringe candidate, the nerdy leader of a third-place British party who could walk down city streets without being recognized.

What has happened to him in the past seven days has no precedent in British politics, and few in elections anywhere. You probably have to reach to the world of reality television, where fellow Briton Susan Boyle rose, in similar one-night fashion, from spinsterdom to celebrity.

As of Thursday, Mr. Clegg, leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, is the most popular politician in Britain, with his party either leading or tied with the Tories throughout the week. An Ipsos MORI poll Wednesday showed his party tied with the Conservatives at 32 per cent, with Labour at 28 per cent – a doubling of the Liberal Democrat standing last week. Other polls had his party ahead.

“We have never seen anything like this sort of an instant rise before in the history of British elections, and it means that the entire system has changed, quite literally overnight,” said Bobby Duffy of the London office of polling firm Ipsos MORI. “What had been a fairly staid election to choose between Gordon Brown and David Cameron has suddenly sparked into life, and nobody knows where things will go now.”

From the Globe. If Clegg manages to take power, or even win the balance of power in a minority parliament, he could leave a permanent mark on British politics. After all, the Liberal Democrats have advocated electoral reform for many years; a switch to PR would have a dramatic effect on all future elections.

No comments: