Nick Clegg is changing the equation of UK politics, and making the threat of a hung parliament even more real.
The Liberal Democrat leader, whose party hasn’t mattered in UK politics since the end of the First World War, stood out in this week’s first ever party leaders debate. The country woke up to his quality, or at least his underdog charms. Clegg’s Liberal Democrats now lead the polls.
What Clegg offers is a real political alternative in a country fed-up with its politics. Since the MP expenses scandal rocked Parliament, the British electorate has become increasingly cynical about their leadership.
That leadership is perceived to be Brown and Cameron, not Clegg. The outsider-change narrative is fully on the side of the Liberal Democrats and their leader.
This does not mean Clegg has a chance at winning the election. The way the UK works, with gerrymandered districts and first-past-the-post voting, the Liberal Democrats aren’t likely to even come close to winning.
But it now seems likely their ascension will prevent Labour or the Conservatives from gaining a majority capable of forming a government, with a hung parliament the result. A coalition will need to be formed.
Clegg isn’t likely to buddy up to the Conservatives, whose right wing views on issues like immigration and Europe don’t jibe with his party, let alone his person (Clegg previously worked in Brussels, comes from an immigrant family, and has a Spanish wife).
So his partnership would be with Labour, a party who have made clear its desire to muddle through the UK’s fiscal crisis, rather than attack it.
The pound’s wobble on Sunday might be a sign of further poll driven instability, and others, such as those at the Keiser Report, are seeing it the same way. It seems the May 6 elections are now likely to produce the UK’s first hung parliament since 1974.
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