Jokes about their lock-in aside, today’s re-launch by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable apparently heralds the Deputy Prime Minister’s attempt to get the Lib Dems to take credit for policies announced in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech. Reform of the pub sector is one of those policies – although wooing CAMRA members is a rather Lib Demmish thing to do (HQ sources tell me that they’ve never polled Lib Dem support among CAMRA members, though. Perhaps they should).
Beyond pubs, what the Lib Dems really need to do is to claim or at least share credit for the Coalition’s economic successes. Nick Clegg pleased his base but alienated the electorate with his ‘party of IN’ campaign, and then tried to recover from it by differentiating the Lib Dems from the Conservatives on international development spending. But these are concerns of the Lib Dem base, rather than the electorate as a whole. As James says in his column in this week’s magazine, ‘a large part of the party’s problem is that the voters are aware of so few of the things that it has done in government’. And the things that the party should try to get credit for are the big issues, such as the recovering economy, over and above reforms for pubs.
Clegg and Danny Alexander have been beavering away at this credit-claiming mission for a little while now, and have enjoyed a little success, with one poll finding that 45 per cent of voters credited them for the rise in the personal tax allowance, against 33 per cent who said the Conservatives deserved more credit for this policy. But their internal party management problems have distracted them from the more important job of trumpeting their achievements.