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Nick Wood: Do you agree with Nick?

Nick WoodNick Wood's daily High Noon column.

"I agree with Nick" turned out to be Gordon Brown's mantra last night in the Leaders' Debates. Rather than carpet bomb us with statistics, Gordon love bombed nice Mr Clegg seven times by saying they were in agreement on a string of matters ranging from immigration to Lords reform.

And - to judge from the instant polling - so did much of the country.

Cameron is now in a three-way fight, with his rivals all too ready to join forces to push him to the sidelines. No surprise there. If anything, the Liberals are to the Left of Labour. Vote Clegg, get Brown has never been more true. And never has a Lib Dem leader woken up to headlines as good as this morning.

So how should CCHQ respond?

The current strategy is to add Conservative voices to the "I agree with Nick" chorus. The idea is that by cuddling up to the Lib Dems, the Tories can reassure their softer supporters that it is safe to switch to the blue corner.

But is this really credible now that Clegg is on the brink of hitting 25% in the polls and thereby denying significant Tory gains from the Liberals in the south and west of England?

After all, among the top 100 marginal seats, 24 are Lib Dem held. Cameron needs to take all those seats to be in with a chance of an overall victory. Right now that does not seem very likely.

Of course, a Lib Dem surge could threaten Labour in the north. But Brown will calculate that a few losses is a price worth paying to keep the Tories at bay in the south.

Time for a change of strategy. Not so much love bombing as a few surgical strikes.

The overall message should be that by voting for Clegg you are voting for five more years of Gordon Brown. "I agree with Nick" should be plastered across every billboard in the land along with a picture of the Lib-Lab twins.

But CCHQ has got to fire some missiles at the main pillars of Lib Dem policy.

It could start by pointing out that that nice Mr Clegg plans a £17 billion tax raid on the middle classes to fund his tax cut for low earners. Do the gravel drive brigade know that? And do they want to see their personal tax bills spiral?

And then it could move on to entertain the nation by highlighting the myriad confusions and contradictions across the Lib Dem policy smorgasbord.

It might also be worth reminding the public that Clegg is a eurofanatic who is soft on immigration and would have us bailing out the Greeks in a jiffy.

The Liberals need to discover that with novelty comes curiosity and with curiosity comes scrutiny, as Michael Gove has said.

As one senior Lib Dem adviser put it to me this morning, Cameron did not seem to have a game plan to deal with Clegg last night. Come round two next Thursday that will have to change. Otherwise the Lib-Lab love affair could become a more permanent arrangement.

Nick Wood, Managing Director, Media Intelligence Partners


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