Daniel Korski

The future might be yellow

The future might be yellow
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The Liberal Democrats are doing well. Very well. More voters seem actively to want a hung parliament - they neither hate Labour or love the Tories enough to act decisevely either way - and a vote for Nick Clegg seems a safe, fair choice.

A few years ago Paddy Ashdown was over the moon to have won far fewer MPs than the party is hoping for at this election. Then came the "Iraq Bounce" with Charles Kennedy's anti-war stance doing the party well. Many assumed that without a clear-cut issue, and having chosen a leader who looked like David Cameron's younger brother, the Lib Dems might struggle. Instead, the party seems to be fighting off Tory inroads.

Nick Clegg will also join David Cameron and Gordon Brown in the TV debates - a coup Paddy Ashdown would have sold a relative to get in his day.

Many of the Lib Dem policies are noteworthy. It is right to refuse to ring-fence the NHS.  Labour has proven that more money will not solve the NHS's problems and protecting every job, every outlay, every programme makes little sense. The same can be said of DFID. The party's willingness to be detailed in their deficit-slashing measures is also welcome. Finally, the manifesto's central idea - the promise to raise the personal allowance to £10,000 - will benefit 3.5 million people, and please a lot of people (though the "mansion tax" needed to pay for it won't).

None of this is to say that the Lib Dems will keep enough of the wind in their sails. The party is riven by policy contradictions and shows, at times, an unserious, think-tank approach to national policy. Think of their ill-considered Trident policy.  

Nick Clegg can do well, as on  Newsnight, and really really badly as on the Today programme. But if you would have told me that two years ago that they would be where they are today I just would not have believed you. As Julian Astle of CentreForum told me: "the public seems to have decided that Labour deserves to loose but that the Tories do not deserve to win - which can only benefit the third party".  Who knows, 24 percent maybe?