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The Lib Dems’ differentiation strategy, pictured

17 January 2012

12:54 PM

17 January 2012

12:54 PM

As revealed in Rachel Sylvester’s Times column (£) today:

“Richard Reeves, Mr Clegg’s political adviser, draws a graph that plots ‘Government unity and strength’ against ‘Lib Dem identity’ as two lines, one going
down and the other up, between 2010 and 2015. The lines cross in 2012. ‘Every minute of every day between now and the election we will turn up the dial on differentiation,’ says a

So I’ve pasted my own version of the Reeves graph above to, erm, get it on paper, as it were.


Of course, it’s not surprising that the Lib Dems — or, indeed, the Tories — would do more to distinguish themselves as the election approaches. But it’s still intriguing that Clegg’s
chief aide regards this year as the one when party identity starts to outweigh government unity. Given what’s gone before, some Tories will bristle at the thought of more and more Lib Dem
assertiveness to come.

And it also makes you wonder how the Lib Dems hope to sustain three-years of ever-increasing differentiation alongside the restrictions of coalition government. In that regard, Clegg’s speech yesterday may offer a clue to one way they’ll go about it: agreement about the
policies to tackle the problems, but (implied) difference in their eagerness to do so.

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Show comments
  • David Dee

    Whilst the Torys are the majority in this coalition they are also the pygmies in that the balance of power rests with the Lib Dems.

    The Tory party cannot rid themselves of the Lib Dems (their parliamentary Acts forbids that) However the Lib Dems can ditch the Tories and form a government with other parties without the need for an election (Their Parliamentary Acts allows this).

    Hence the need for a differentation strategy so that the Lib Dems can take the credit due to them for watering down the Tory excesses (whatever happened to Gideon’s IHT proposals,giving massive tax cuts to the already rich ? They have been sidelined by the Lib Dems ).

    For too long the Tories have managed to pass the blame unto the Lib Dems for their unpopular policies. But now the Lib Dems are building up, not for the election,but to get themselves in a position where they can walk away from the coalition and place the Tory party into the opposition party !!!

  • Halcyondaze

    Spot on Rhoda – hear hear!

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Fergus, you may be missing the point. Some of us do not need the tories to move to the right. We just want to see them not being so damn WET. Wet and centrist are not the same. Thus we wish them to say what they mean, to eschew cheap political maneouvering, to do things which are right even if they are unpopular, to have principled, thought-through positions not run things up the flagpole to see how they play to the guardian-reading class. Honest. There is no left and right in immigration, or the EU, except insofar as the issues have been hijacked. But oh boy there is a lot of wetness.

  • oldtimer

    It is daily more and more obvious that Clegg is useless – mouthing inanities, trying to sound important. Does anyone pay attention?

  • Fergus Pickering

    I am happy to vote Tory but not if the party goes where so many of you lot want it to go. You want it to BECOME the nasty party that the sainted Teresa accurately told us it was seen as. You are the exact image of mad Tony Bann who told us throughout Mrs Thatcher’s glorious rule that Labour just needed to become more left wing to be elected. Fail, fail, fail until Blair towed the party to the right and won three consecutive elections. You want to lose the next election. Just continue on your chosen path, soak the poor some more, make the rich, richer and everything will be hunky-dory. And I’d abolish democracy while you are at it because those pesky poor, you know the bastards have got votes. Yes I know the LibDems are hopeless and stupid with it, but we always knew that. We needed them to get into power. Possibly we can ditch them nezt time around, but ditch Cameron – no, no, no!

  • Sir Everard Digby

    Clegg has surprised me; he makes Milliband look like an accomplished politician.

    Sadly the LibDems have now proved that they are small-minded when given access to the levers of power. More tribal than Labour and unable to think in the national interest.

    I guess Clegg’s 2010 campaigning stance that he was different to the other parties was actually true. The LibDems exhibit much worse versions of the objectionable traits shared by Labour and the Conservatives.

    Time for Mr Rochester to lock away this political Bertha in the nearest attic.

  • WIlliam Balkes Ghost

    Well after the 2013 budget (the last really serious one given 2014 will be the coalition divorce budget) it really won’t matter much as the Conservatives will need to start gearing up for the Euro elections in 2014 and Cameron will need to ensure he turns the Euro election into a springboard for the General Election campaign. Furthermore, if it comes to pass the independence referendum will now dominate 2014 as well.

    My estimate is that from 2013 onwards the Conservatives will be highlighting through proposals and new legislation just how much the Libdems are on the other side of the argument from the Conservatives and the electorate so expect stuff on immigration, on the economy, on Law and order, on the EU and so forth that highlights how against the electorate the Libdems truly are.

  • Cynic

    @tom jonesWhen did Tories become scared? How about 97? Or 01? Or 05? You see where I’m going with this? The only people who want us to be more right wing are the same people whose ideas led us to defeat in 3 consecutive general elections.” But,in case you’ve not noticed, Labour has now been rumbled. The wheels have fallen off and the electorate has finally woken up to reality. They are no longer the same easily bamboozled people as they were in 1997, 2001 and 2005; the spin is now seen for what it was. They have become more cynical and probably more aware that the facts of life are conservative (with a small c). We can’t afford the socialist spendaholic lifestyle on credit any more because the bills have to be paid.

  • Austin Barry

    Tom Jones 17 Jan 2:47 writes:

    “How about 97? Or 01? Or 05? You see where I’m going with this? The only people who want us to be more right wing are the same people whose ideas led us to defeat in 3 consecutive general elections.”

    That was before austerity, before the London riots, before the baleful consequences of mass immigration, and before the tyranny of the EU was exposed by beginning of its collapse.

    Events happen and people change.

  • TrevorsDen

    The more the LDs expose what they consider their true nature then the more it will delight the Tories.
    The way forward for LDs – if they want to stay as a part of govt – is to fight the next election as part of a continuing coalition. Otherwise their ‘separate identity’ will leave them with 30-odd seats and just playing around in opposition.

    I am not sure how separate they can be however if they take part in and vote for the 2014 autumn statement and the 2015 budget.

  • Keith

    Tom Jones:

    The reason why the Tories lost in 97, 01 and 05 was because the electorate was complacent: it thought it could afford a Labour government.

    It no longer thinks that. The game has changed. But the Tories don’t seem to realise it.

  • Woody

    I really wanted this coalition to work for the sake of the country but no longer. My patience has well and truly run out with the Lib Dems because they have shown they are a party not fit for government. Their sanctimonious, arrogance just drives me mad, particularly Ashdown and Oakshott. I can’t see David Cameron’s patience lasting another three years, or should I say George Osborne’s.

    They say there is no opposition, well there is but they’re not sitting on the opposition benches, they are sat on the government’s side.

    Hasn’t it occured to them, that acting like a responsible party of government will do more to improve their poll ratings, than their wrecking ball tactics and infantile name calling of the tories.

  • Hugh

    I think that Clegg needs to watch his step, and avoid trying DC’s patience, especially after 3Q2013 when the Boundary Commission is likely to have finished its current work. Tim Knox from the Centre for Policy Studies was recommending that DC goes for it in 2012, before Christmas.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Lib Dem Identity? What would that be then? ‘Vote for us, we’re not the beastly Tories or the oiky Labour’?

    They need a return to the Pantsdown definition which brilliantly sums up their utter pointlessness, ‘Equidistance’ between Tory & Labour. No core beliefs except those mandated by Brussels commissioners.

    Its to Cameron’s eternal shame that he lives quite comfortably with these snakes.

  • MilkSnatcher

    Well what do you expect from a pygmy protest party? Clegg’s “betrayal” on tuition fees and his subsequent poll ratings will look like small beer when this “betrayal” of the coalition plays itself out. The dustbin of history beckons Cleggers – jump right in.

  • tom jones

    When did Tories become scared? How about 97? Or 01? Or 05? You see where I’m going with this? The only people who want us to be more right wing are the same people whose ideas led us to defeat in 3 consecutive general elections. We need to be in the centre ground and if anything the LibDems are helping us to do that! They’re totally wrong on Europe and other things, but they’re also shielding us from public anger and they’re coming up with some decent ideas (pupil premium, taking the poorest out of tax etc etc)

  • Wily Trout

    Surely that just gives the Tories ammunition to accuse the Libdems of putting selfish party advantage before the interests of the country. Hardly a vote-winner.

  • Puncheon

    Graphs are the last refuge of a scoundrel.

  • Halcyondaze

    Oh for God’s sake! When are the true Tories going to wake up and boot this horrible little shower into touch once and for all! The electorate can’t stand them – they’re totally out of touch with the public mood – so grow a pair and assert yourselves!

    When did the Tories all become so bloody SCARED? Scared of causing offence, scared of common sense, scared of principle, scared of being pro-British, scared of standing up for themselves, scared of sounding like Conservatives, scared of dipping one little toe outside the soft, slushy centre ground!

    YOU don’t need Clegg, or Alexander, or Huhne, or Hughes! WE don’t want ANY of them! So let them assert their bed-wetting, anti-British, pro-EU, softy-softly identity out of government and on the furthest back benches!


  • Salisbury

    There’s a line missing from your graph. It’s the one that scrapes along the bottom marked “poll rating”.

  • salieri

    The graph makes the questionable assumption that “LibDem Identity” is not only a good thing in itself, but a goal to be actively pursued in tandem with the disintegration of the Coalition to which they pay lip-service. Some might call this cynical. Others might go further and describe the Lib Dems as duplicitous and vacuous opportunists who are unfit to hold public office.

  • Mr. Bubbles

    Surely, in reality, the ‘Lib Dem Identity’ line would actually be a V shape. They’ve actually lost their identity whilst in the coalition, and they hope to regain it by…. er, making the government disunited? Good stuff.

  • Nicholas

    Says it all. Lib Dem “identity” (aka contrary orneriness) takes precedent over government unity and strength in a national crisis (bearing in mind that the Lib Dems are supposed to be an integral part of that government). The Lib Dem Deputy PM’s strategic target for 2015 is government division and weakness. This shows absolutely clearly why Lib Dems are not a fit and responsible party to govern.

    The “strategist” needs sacking too. Was this “clever” graph drawn on the back of a lentil packet?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    They are in government now (more’s the pity). What is the point of doing a bad job so that they get a chance to do better in the 2015 election? If they undermine the tories too visibly, they will open up a flank to attacks which will make them look stupid and disloyal. Oh, just realised a flaw in my train of thought..

  • Dimoto

    Men in closed rooms doodling and talking about “strategy”.

    Clegg is more a creature of his party’s outer-reaches-loons, than Miliband ever was.

    No wonder he looks haunted, being instructed to do all of this airy-fairy impracticable stuff, when all he really wants is to carry on with a bit of opportunism to marginally lift his poll numbers.

    Richard Reeves, Paddy Ashdown, Lord Razzle, Lord Oakeshot ….. would you buy a “strategy” from this lot ?

  • JAJones

    Only works if we all share the same fantasy!?

  • Austin Barry

    A variation of this graph could also be used to demonstrate the diminution in national sovereignty set against the rise of the ECHR and the accommodation of radical Islam, or the Abu Qatada Graph.

    Where the line bisects would be known as the Shami point.

  • Maggie

    The brilliant LibDem strategy is that the more unpopular and discredited Labour become the more like Labour they will become. Wherever Labour wants to waste £10billion then the LibDems will outdo them by wasting £20billion.