James Forsyth

Expect the unexpected

Expect the unexpected
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Peter Kellner has an interesting comment piece up on the YouGov site about how we are in the unusual position of having three relatively unpopular party leaders. Nick Clegg’s approval rating is down at minus 29 but that hasn’t helped Ed Miliband who is at minus 15. David Cameron does have a positive rating, but only just. His approval rating is plus one. As Kellner points out, normally when one political leader is unpopular another benefits. But that hasn’t happened this time: a sign of how strong a hold anti-politics has on the public consciousness.

This discontent is mirrored by how all three parties are having quite serious debates about what they should be. Labour is trying to answer the question of what the purpose of the party is when there’s no money left to spend. The Conservatives are debating whether they want to be ‘mainstream Conservatives’ with robust positions on tax, Europe and immigration or liberal Conservatives who try and hold the perceived centre. For their part, the Liberal Democrats are having an existential crisis about who they are which might end up splitting the party.  Add to this mix a hardcore of thugs who want to hijack demos against the cuts to try and show that Britain is ungovernable and you have a particularly unpredictable political environment.

A year ago the idea that Nick Clegg would being burnt in effigy and that the Home Secretary would be being questioned on whether water cannon will be used on protestors would have seemed fanciful, the kind of far-fetched predictions that columnists produce to fill newspapers between Christmas and New Year. So I would rule little out for next year.