James Forsyth

Banging on about Europe will cost the Lib Dems seats

Banging on about Europe will cost the Lib Dems seats
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In his interview with the FT, Nick Clegg says that the Lib Dems have been too “reticent” about making Europe a dividing line with the Tories. There’s little doubt that Clegg, a former MEP is an ideological pro-European. But if he starts banging on about Europe he’ll cause his party problems.

The Lib Dems have several seats in the South West, one of the most Euro-sceptic regions of the county. As the European elections results there showed, when Europe is the issue the Lib Dems do badly. If Clegg really does intend to make Europe a key campaign dividing line, then the Tories will fancy their chance of picking up a fair few of these South Western marginals.

The odd thing about this conference is that the Lib Dem leadership keeps making policy changes which are, obviously, going to alienate important constituencies for them. They’ve downgraded their pledge on tuition fees which is going to hurt their student support, they’ve talked about ‘savage’ cuts which won’t endear them to the public sector professionals they were trying to woo, their new property tax is going to hurt them in the prosperous southern seats they are trying to protect from the Tories and now they want to emphasise Europe despite being a pro-European party which has a slew of seats in a heavily Euro-sceptic region. Calamity Clegg indeed.