Clegg: Lib Dems can overtake Labour

by Stephen Tall on June 24, 2009

Over at the Financial Times, there’s a feature interview with Nick Clegg (he’s certainly getting about this week). The opening two paragraphs give a flavour:

Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, believes his party can overtake Labour at the next election, as “big things can happen” when a government is defeated in the battle of ideas and loses touch with the public.

In a bullishly confident interview, Mr Clegg said on Tuesday it was “not beyond the realms of possibility” that his party could push Labour into third place and become the official opposition to a David Cameron government.

Asked to distinguish the Labour and Lib Dem approaches, Nick summed it up as:

“The Labour party is on the wrong side of changes happening in British society,” he said, arguing that Labour remains wedded to a centralised “command and control” approach to politics.

The Lib Dems better understood a more socially mobile society and the need to devolve power, for more openness, a more active approach on the environment and enhanced civil liberties.

The article points out why Lib Dem campaign strategists are optimistic about the outcome of the next general election:

The Liberal Democrats expect to lose some of their 63 seats to the Conservatives at the next election, notably in the south and south-west but hope to more than compensate by eating into Labour’s heartlands in the north.

The party has been talking to Barack Obama’s campaign team and have been inspired by the US president’s drive into previously hostile Republican states.

Lib Dem campaign operations are being built up, sometimes almost from scratch, in northern towns and cities, where the party’s presence is almost non-existent, to capture what they expect will be a big swing against Labour.

That would mark an expansion out of the swath of gentrified or university city seats the party won at the last election and into seats in areas such as St Helens, Burnley, Liverpool, Hull and Newcastle.