As we were saying…………..

So, we have a coalition government in Britain and the press and the broadcast media are wriggling with pundits, all telling us just what happened and why. Of course, it’s easy enough to be wise after the event. But these are the same pundits who, after the first TV debate, were so wild-eyed and feverish with Cleggmania. The Lib Dems, they told us , were on the verge of displacing Labour as the main opposition. They might even out-poll the Tories. In this, of course, they were aided and abetted by a gaggle of pollsters who understand everything about statistics, and nothing about people.
They should have read the Chelgate Blog. This is what we wrote on April 19th, when Cleggmania was raging unchecked across the land:
So, now some opinion polls actually have the Lib Dems in the lead! So what does this mean for British politics? Have the Libs “gone viral”? Should we be preparing ourselves for the reign of King Clegg?
Um. No.
Of course we are in the world of “Anything’s possible” now. And only an idiot will speak in absolutes. But the fact is, this is not a presidential election. Immediately after the debate, people felt inclined to give their vote to that nice Nick Clegg. And yes, they have a soft spot for Vince Cable, who could make a perfect Joe Biden to Clegg’s Obama. But that’s not the way our political system works. When it comes to the actual election day and they realise that Nick Clegg is not standing in their constituency, and their man (or woman) is still there in a distant third place, then reluctantly, bitterly, as they have before, they’ll shift their vote to whichever they dislike least of Labour and Tory , to keep the other one out.

The Bigotgate Blunder

Gordon Brown’s “bigotgate” blunder yesterday was a PR mistake in another way, too.
Modern political PR operators have lost their nerve. They have become control freaks, obsessed with managing away every hint of risk from their candidates’ daily schedules. ”Ordinary” members of the public are wheeled up, carefully selected for their doglike devotion to Party and Candidate. They receive their pat on the head, they wag their tails and off they go.
The Prime Minister’s reaction yesterday when he found himself actually talking to a real member of the public (albeit a lifelong supporter of his Party) was as interesting as it was startling. The fact is that his discussion with Gillian Duffy had been far from the “disaster” that he thought. Yes, she had raised a list of concerns. But he had answered well, listening courteously, talking kindly and with sympathy, and setting out his case with effective clarity. He had looked good. Mrs Duffy’s gentle challenges provided him with hugely more opportunity to express himself than a dozen hand picked sycophants would ever have done.
But so sheltered has he become from the realities of real voter contact that this brief exchange felt to him like a “disaster”. He was wrong. And his minders were wrong, just as most political minders are wrong. They need courage. They need to believe in themselves. Great politicians are risk takers. Successful risk takers. And that’s how they rise above the crowd. No half-decent politician should ever be afraid of contact with the public. This is their real chance to perform. It was only when the “grey man” of British politics, John Major, dragged out his soap box and stood on street corners taking on all comers that he was able to turn around an unwinnable election. This election’s so tight, a well-judged throw of the dice might just change history. But I’m not sure modern politicians have the guts or the instinct for that kind of risk taking. Sometimes, though, if you try too hard not to lose, you can forget how to win.
Terence Fane-Saunders