I despair sometimes. I really do. I gave you all quite clear instructions. I told everyone I know, and one or two random strangers at bus stops, to ignore all polls until at least Monday. Following the Prime Ministerial debates, Nick Clegg was always going to get a bounce in the polls. It was inevitable. He went from nowhere, on an equal footing with the leaders of the SNP, Plaid Cymru, and Monster Raving Loony party, to sharing a stage with the only two men with the potential to be Prime Minister in a fortnight.
Ok, so mathematically Clegg can be PM too. But be realistic. The biggest voter swing in british elections since 1950 was Tony Blair’s first victory in 1997. That was 10.2%. And it gave Labour a massive majority. For the Liberal Democrats to gain a majority in Parliament of just 14, there would have to be a swing of 19% from Labour. And that’s not going to happen. In a month of Sundays.
The April 16th Yougov poll had the Conservatives on 33%, Liberal Democrats on 30%, and Labour on 28%. Lib Dem activist went loopy at this, and a lot of the press joined in. Nick Clegg was going to be PM. Woopy-bloody-doo. But, on a uniform swing, that would be a hung parliament with Labour the largest, Tories second, and Lib Dems exactly where they are now.
Clegg and co now have a much bigger set of headaches. A few of things are about to happen. First, the Tories and right-wing press are going to unleash hell. Attacks on Clegg will come from all directions. Second, after scoring such an obvious victory in the first debate, the public now have huge expectations of Clegg. Anything less than total victory, and Clegg will fail. Any slip-up, any faltering, any drop in his score, and it’s a victory for the other parties. Finally, and probably most importantly, both public and press are about to start looking at Lib Dem policies. They can no longer say anything they like safe in the knowledge nobody will notice. No more free porn on the NHS, no more Armani for everyone. People are going to study their manifesto and subject it to a forensic dissection. At which point they’ll realise that there’re huge holes running right through it. And then Clegg will be back to being the nowhere man.