UK Election Stunner: Lib Dems in the Lead

A shocker in the news here (even my normally laid back host Richard Smith reacted strongly): the normally #3 party, the Lib Dems, have now been found to be in the lead by two reputable polls.

Admittedly, it is a full three weeks before the election, and the Lib Dems’ unexpected assumption of the lead in large measure results from a strong debate performance by Nick Clegg. While the stunned Conservative and Labor leaders no doubt hope this spike in popularity will fade in the coming weeks, the Lib Dems’ policies may well prove in tune with top priority popular issues:

1. A more redistributive tax policy than either of the two major parties

2. Very tough on bank bonuses, implying they are in line are line with the Bank of England/FSA hard line on financial reform

So while the punditocracy sees a Lib-Labor coalition as the probable outcome, an outright upset by the Lib-Dems is a wild card possibility.

From the Daily Mail (hat tip bena gyerek):

A sensational set of opinion polls has sent shock waves through both Tory and Labour high commands.

Last night a survey became the second within 24 hours to put the Lib Dems ahead for the first time in 104 years.

They were on 33 per cent, with the Tories on 32 and Labour a near all-time low of 26.

On a uniform national swing, the YouGov survey for the Sun would leave Labour and the Conservatives almost equal on seats in a hung Parliament, with the Lib Dems holding the balance of power.

Senior Labour figures are now openly touting a coalition deal which would allow them to cling to power.

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  1. Eff

    Emiliano, U’re kidding, right?

    The US have turned themselves into an international pariah. They will have to be broken-up to be able to get any recognition ever again, as the SS. Separate States.

    This slow crash is just the beginning.

    The American dream was just that. A dream.

  2. Colin In Canada

    The UK electoral system could give a rather extraordinary result.

    The Mail on Sunday poll give Lib 32%, Con 31% and Lab 28%.

    Using these numbers in the BBC’s “Election seat calculator” [] points to the psooibility of a rather anomolus result.

    Labour would still be the largest party in parliamant (276 seats) and the Liberal-Democrats the smallest (119 seats) of the three national parties. The model shows the Conservatives with 226 seats.

  3. eric anderson

    That “Deep Thoughts From Ayn Rand” link is a classic. I reviewed Atlas Shrugged again last year. I consider Rand a secular prophet. She foresaw the corruption of our time with clarity. I can’t say I am fully in tune with her prescriptions, but the diagnosis amazes me.

    1. DownSouth

      Yea right.

      Over the past 30 years, under the tutelage of such notables as Alan Greenspan, we’ve become a living example of Ayn Rand’s laissez faire “paradise of innocence,” and look where it landed us.

      Rand was certainly attuned to the flaws of state socialism. But she was totally blind to the flaws of state capitalism. Rand’s incredible naïveté resulted in simplistic little formulations. So what she offered up was wrong vs. wrong, error vs. error.

      1. eric anderson

        There are many gaps in Rand’s understanding of and prescriptions for the world’s problems. That is not the issue. I only pointed out that she diagnosed some of the problems very well.

        To equate Greenspan with Rand is very sloppy logic, to say the least. Greenspan espoused one philosophy, but he followed quite another. There’s nothing in Rand that leads me to believe she thought cheating people was fine, as long as you could get away with it, or that “the market” alone would regulate such immoral behavior. Honest goods and services freely traded for honest money is what she was about. Rand was a sound money advocate, whereas Greenspan ramped up the printing presses at the drop of a hat. A government and private debt bubble the likes of which the world has likely never seen was the result.

        Greenspan does not equal Rand. Have you actually read her books? To think the crony capitalism and the promotion of and legalization of fraud that developed is indicative of Ayn Rand’s teaching is another kind of naïveté.

        1. Anonymous Jones

          I agree about the diagnosis part, though it certainly does not “amaze” me at all. And her prescriptions strike me as infantile and impossible; so there’s that. I’ve read her books. I’m “amazed” at what I find to be poor writing and the clear and obvious psychological scars she lays bare on the page. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder; so this is all just opinion only relevant to my own eye, but I find the books ugly and worthy only of adolescents.

  4. eric anderson

    If I understand the platform of the Liberal Democrats (I’m American) correctly, it appears to me that if they win, the UK will get exactly what we are getting:

    1. Hope
    2. Change
    3. Bankruptcy

    Does Clegg know how to create favorable conditions for the production of sufficient real wealth to sustain all the spending that he’s likely to want to do?

    1. AgentOrange

      The idea that the Liberal Democrats are a ‘socialist’ party is indeed popular in the British press, but doesn’t stack up. In fact, Clegg is rather a small government liberal, supporting markets, more in the line of continental liberals (German FDP, Dutch VVD etc.). Read for instance the Orange Book that was published a few years ago with contributions from Clegg and others. This right side of the party has won out. They are indeed redistributive, but so are the Tories with their plan to give the top 3,000 estates in the country the equivalent of $300,000 (sounds familiar?). The LibDems redistributive policies are just the other way round.

      It’s understandable though that you get to such a view. Reading the British press it is hard to avoid. An enlightening article in the Guardian explains the stranglehold of Murdoch’s empire on British politics ( Murdoch’s troops ignored the LibDems, as the argument of the ‘wasted vote’ was always enough to get the electorate to fall in line. Now that they suddenly have to sit up and listen, the mud slinging has started. Within three days articles were published on whether Clegg is really British. Sounds familiar? It is going to be very, very nasty the next couple of weeks. More similarities with the US elections: there is a groundswell of young people getting more involved in politics, with rapidly growing Facebook groups such as “We got Rage Against the Machine to #1, we can get the Lib Dems into office!”. Interesting times.

      1. DownSouth


        Modernism is certainly going to be put to a test, the test being whether the rank and file can see through the pernicious ideologies being promoted by the likes of Murdoch. Unless the Murdochs of the world are successful in turning Great Britain and the United States into full-bore fascist states, they might find themselves living in a not-so-hospitable world in the future.

        And if history and tradition have anything to do with it, the US and Great Britain might be the most difficult places on the globe to achieve a fascist state.

        Frederick Lewis Allen summed it up most succinctly:

        Yet to the extent that it stopped factual inquiry and thought, the Roosevelt-hating was costly, not only to recovery, but to the haters themselves. Because as a group (there were many exceptions) the well-to-do regarded the presence of Roosevelt in the White House as a sufficient explanation for all that was amiss and as a sufficient excuse for not taking a more active part in new investment, they inevitably lost prestige amongst the less fortunate. For the rich and powerful could maintain their prestige only by giving the general public what it wanted. It wanted prosperity, economic expansion. It had always been ready to forgive all manner of deficiencies in the Henry Fords who actually produced the goods, whether or not they made millions in the process. But it was not disposed to sympathize unduly with people who failed to produce the goods….
        –Frederick Lewis Allen, Since Yesterday

      2. eric anderson

        Question for AgentOrange: I take it that in UK, there is not a sufficiently developed alternative media? In USA, some consider the Murdoch empire part of alternative media. But I’m talking about the plethora of blogs with a variety of viewpoints and news outside the mainstream.

        In the US, the mainstream press including the Murdoch wing have virtually ignored libertarian Ron Paul. In a recent poll of likely voters, Ron Paul was in a statistical dead heat with Barack Obama if a new election were held today. That would not happen except that ideas and information are leaking out from the minority who read blogs like this and all kinds of alternative media into the general population. Even if that poll was skewed, it shows a change in ideology and a rejection of the two mainstream party power structures that could not have happened apart from a strong underground that is becoming mainstream.

        At least in USA, the internet is an instrument of revolution. The major media are viewed by more and more people as unreliable. It matters less and less who controls them, whether it is Murdoch or the White House. (One comment heard recently: So many journalists are in the tank for Obama, they had to build a bigger tank.)

    2. Toby

      Nice post Eric, raised a chuckle here (I’m a Brit living in Berlin).

      A question for you: what is real wealth?

      I think this is an important area for debate/discussion globally, so would be interested to hear your thoughts on this (and anyone else’s for that matter).

      1. eric anderson

        Thank you for raising an interesting question. I’m not an economist or an academic. So how can I explain what I mean by real wealth? I may not be able to give you a complete or technically accurate picture.

        However, I know what real wealth is not. It is not when a third of your GDP comes from big financial firms and their smaller children loaning out huge sums of newly printed cash and taking bets on whether the loans will pay off. Not to mention complex derivatives and other schemes designed to shave off large slices of pension funds and other investors’ nest eggs. Real wealth is not pushing prices to bubble levels and people borrowing against the inflated market values to buy vacations, autos, second homes, fad electronic gear, and expensive couture, they could not ordinarily afford.

        When the economy becomes more geared to producing improved products and services that people can afford without resorting to casino bets on the latest investment fad, I think we’ll be closer to an economy that generates real wealth. I should also mention the excess of health care services here. I don’t personally consider more exotic surgeries, more organ transplants, more drug-taking, an example of real wealth. I think it was Lester Thoreau who said that we don’t actually increase our economic health by giving each other heart transplants. (Though it would increase GDP.) Healthier people who don’t need as many of the above should probably be considered part of the equation as well. With the aging of an increasingly obese population and government promises to provide care, we are heading into a period of declining “real” wealth as never before. Though it might be good for the nominal GDP.

        This isn’t a great answer, but I hope it at least suggests sufficiently what I envision. It’s sort of a holistic concept, not strictly economic.

  5. Caoilte

    Geographically, the Libdems will not ever be able to form a majority government. They’re too localized.

    If they are sensible enough to stick to their guns on electoral reform they might get a proportional representation that one day allows them to become majority partner in a coalition, but that’s their only chance.

    Two other important things to remember

    1) the Libdems always get their honeymoon in the build up to the election and always improve in the polls in the run up to the election.
    2) Business has been taking the LibDems seriously for several years now and there are some pretty scarey business friendly policies in the Orange Book as a result. Luckily it isn’t officially party policy yet.

    Most likely this will all burn out, however.

    Seems all politicians have skeletons in the closet and now the Libdems are “serious” theirs will be aired.

  6. RebelEconomist

    I hope you are enjoying your enforced stay with us Yves.

    I think that the party leaders’ tv debate (the first in Britain) changed British politics to some extent by making the media give the Libdems equal coverage for most purposes. While none of the three major parties are tackling what is in my view Britain’s biggest economic problem – the domination of our economy by the housing market (the Libdems would actually make it worse by abolishing the local tax on property) – I would welcome a Labour-Libdem alliance government, because I hope that it would leave us with the more well-meaning and experienced Labour politicians while downgrading party hacks, perhaps even including Gordon Brown himself. I will probably vote Libdem.

    As for progressive politics in the US, I think your best hope is to contract out your government to Canada.

  7. eric anderson

    I’ve listened to most of the debate online now. I’m not sure I would trust any of these wankers, personally.

    Brown is totally on the idea that government is the solution. Spend, spend, spend. We’ll sort out the debt tomorrow.

    To an American, Cameron seems like Labor Lite. Obviously his comments about waste will resonate. I think waste in both UK and US governments goes far, far deeper than any prominent politicians will admit. I take it he wants tax cuts. Without dramatic spending restraint this just slows down the speed of the train heading for the edge of the cliff.

    Clegg is appealing in some respects — he’s more specific about the options — but if there is a structural deficit of 70 billion as I think he stated, and he proposes cutting 15 billion, that’s a day late and 60 billion short.

    It’s hard enough for me to keep track of the US government and economy, so my perspective on the UK is not well informed. But my first impressions of this debate are: Anybody but Brown! Not that the alternatives look very appealing.

    Who is running on the Silly Party ticket? ;-)

  8. Emily Sultzer

    I add comments on every blog I read. I have nothing conversational to add to the topic so feel free to delete this comment but thanks for taking the time to write it.

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