After Holiday in Sunny Spain, Geography Is Key to Clegg's Political Vision; POLITICS

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 13, 2008 | Go to article overview

After Holiday in Sunny Spain, Geography Is Key to Clegg's Political Vision; POLITICS


Byline: Tomos Livingstone

WHILE David Cameron and Gordon Brown tried to out-do each other by posing for the cameras on their summer holidays, Nick Clegg was nowhere to be seen.

Mr Clegg always spends his break with his in-laws in central Spain, and claims never to have seen a British-registered car there, let alone a camera crew.

The Liberal Democrat leader will have been pleased for some peace as he grapples with the question that always threatens to trip up the third party - are Labour or the Conservatives the real enemy?

The Liberal Democrats sometimes protest that this question is a false one, a mirage seen only by a media obsessed with the old two-party system. But it's real enough, affecting everything from the messages the party tries to get across to decisions on which seats to spend their limited resources on. And in a close election it can even help decide who becomes Prime Minister.

Paddy Ashdown pioneered what he called "equidistance", placing the Lib Dems halfway between Tory and Labour - although the rise of Tony Blair forced him to change tack a little and open formal talks with the then-popular Prime Minister on constitutional affairs.

Charles Kennedy saw a gap on the left created by Mr Blair's policies on tuition fees and Iraq, and won the party new support in the 2005 poll - although some in the party thought he'd gone too far in the wrong direction.

Sir Menzies Campbell had barely enough time to ponder his position before being booted out.

I'm not sure Mr Clegg has got the answer either.

He told the Western Mail earlier this year he had "no secret preference" one way or the other, and he has since tried to have things both ways: his plans for tax cuts can be read as an attempt to take on the Tories on their turf; in public he's stated his desire to concentrate on taking 50 seats from Labour. …

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After Holiday in Sunny Spain, Geography Is Key to Clegg's Political Vision; POLITICS
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