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Three ways to burst the Nick Clegg bubble

Four days after the ITV debate my brain has slowly reached a reasonably settled view on what should happen now. I'm grateful to all ConHome readers for the enormous number of comments, emails and record number of votes in our online survey (now over 3,100) that have helped my thought processes.

One: Clegg needs to be shown up as a politician of the European left and as someone with a very tarnished record on expenses. Harry Phibbs started to do this on Saturday. Andrew Neil raised the issue of Mr Clegg's expenses at this morning's LibDem press conference. This now needs to roll as a theme. The attack must be on Clegg's claim to be different, rather than his policies. The LibDem leader's 'holier than thou' act needs to be exposed by newspapers and bloggers - but NOT by the Tory leadership.

Two: Cameron must stay above the demolition of Nick Clegg but he must define change. He's right to insist on staying positive but he must become much more specific with his speeches. The most important poll finding of the last 24 hours comes from PoliticsHome. 46% think "change" is a meaningless and hackneyed political slogan. They are right and that's what was wrong with last night's Tory broadcast. In the ConHome survey of members, there is an even split on whether the 'Big Society' rhetoric is winning votes on the doorstep (39%/39%) but a whopping 97% want much more detailed policies from David Cameron's mouth. We have those policies. Stopping the NI rise. Freezing council tax. Cutting ministers' pay. New rights for householders against burglars. A cap on immigration. No more transfer of UK powers to Brussels without a vote of the people. Cancer drugs for those who need them, provided by the NHS. One million more people getting access to an NHS dentist. With a Conservative government change can happen instantly. With a coalition government there'll be political infighting and possibly a second election.

Three: Will Clegg rule out keeping Brown or Labour in power? He won't because the Liberal Democrats - members and voters - prefer the idea of Brown to Cameron. Labour is openly wooing LibDems with promises of electoral reform. Every voter needs to know that there's only one way they can be sure of ending Labour rule and that's voting Conservative. Keeping Brown out - rather than the dangers of a hung parliament - should be the top framing. The 'I won't keep Brown in power pledge' of the Tory candidate in Blaydon may be the model for this although I would prefer an 'I won't keep Labour in power' pledge.

Tim Montgomerie


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