Will the Liberal Democrats be wiped out at the next general election?
After the Budget last week, Nick Clegg and his Lib Dems may be at their most content since the beginning of the Coalition government. The increase in income tax allowance and a Tory u-turn on tighter child benefit payouts both imply that the junior party in the Coalition has actually been curbing some of the tough measures that perhaps some on the Conservative front bench would have preferred to come into play.
It also appears to be the Tories taking the hit for the so-called ‘granny tax’ and the top rate of tax decrease, even when the ‘tycoon taxing’ Lib Dems should really be taking the blame for Osborne’s squeezing of the middle and freeing up of the wealthy. However, when it comes to the Lib Dems’ political future, especially in the 2015 general election, the party is doomed.
I have serious doubts whether the electorate will remember how the Lib Dems hypothetically influenced Tory economic policy in the year of 2012. It seems more likely that the betrayal on tuition fees and the embarrassing nature of the AV referendum will be remembered, alongside the propping up of a Conservative government that is radically reforming the NHS, lowering taxes for the super-rich and freezing public sector pay.
The campaign which the Lib Dems run in 2015 will be extremely interesting.
Constitutional reform always features in a Lib Dem manifesto and excites some of the politically informed electorate who wish to see fundamental reform to the various branches of government in the UK and beyond. The problem for Clegg and his team in 2015 will be that they have already had their go at constitutional reform and failed miserably, losing out in the AV referendum by a huge majority.
The political reformists in the UK may choose to part company with the constitutionally obsessed Lib Dems as I’m sure nearly all people below the age of 21 will also do.
Nick Clegg represents a constituency in Sheffield that encompasses two universities with over 50,000 students between the two of them, what kind of coherent promises can he possibly make to them in 2015? Young people who I know who inform themselves of the issues of the day complain about the corrupt activities going on in public institutions and the completely self-centred individuals in politics who only care about raising their own profile, rather than doing their democratic duty.
However, one thing that they detest is dishonesty and back-stabbing and will never forget what the Lib Dems did. Unfortunately, and quite rightly in my opinion, the Lib Dems are going to lose the support of an entire demographic of the UK population.
Along with students, the Lib Dems may also find it difficult to appeal to the demographics that the Conservative party is not seeking to reward (pensioners, public sector workers), with people being dissatisfied with the Lib Dems’ efforts to protect the people who have made up a significant proportion of their general election support in the past.
I personally cannot wait for the TV debates between the three leaders during the campaign in 2015. The atmosphere will be utterly cringeworthy with Cameron and Clegg playing the parts of a divorced couple who have broken up squabbling over the spoils of the Coalition’s achievements, with Ed Miliband finding himself in the awkward yet perhaps beneficial position above the fray.
Clegg can only hope that credible economic growth will return and unemployment will fall during this Parliament and that he can somehow justify the words ‘we did this for the good of the country’ to party supporters and the ordinary voter in 2015. Alternatively, the Lib Dems may have to rely on a unionist defeat in the Scottish Referendum (which will destroy Cameron) and a weak Ed Miliband failing to connect with the electorate and capitalise on government mistakes, something which he has not done greatly up to now.
Jonathan Coverdale writes on issues of government and politics. You can find him on Twitter @JonnyCoverdale