A week last Thursday, the political lay of the land shifted. The mini earthquake thanks to Nick Clegg has resulted in people thinking differently about this election.
I do wonder why no pundits expected this. Didn’t they recall when, a couple of months ago the three Leaders agreed to these TV debates, everyone said that whatever else happens, Clegg and the Lib Dems will do well out of it.
I guess the mis-match is because ’doing well’ wasn’t merely those commentators and pundits saying “Didn’t he do well?”, Bruce Forsyth style. It actually resulted in the electorate thinking he did well and making the link between that and the fact they’ll be voting in the General Election.
Well, national sentiment aside, since a week last Thursday my on-the-ground campaigning in Hackney North and Stoke Newington has thrown up something strange (good strange).
It’s the sheer number of people who are saying they’re voting Lib Dem this time. And not just those who voted Lib Dem last time and will again, but those who voted Labour before and will vote Lib Dem now.
There has been a shift in sentiment along these lines for a while. But not like this. The most interesting shift I’ve noticed is among Afro-Caribbean people. It’s fair to say that Diane Abbott’s vote among the Afro-Caribbean community was strong. But that now seems to be falling away.
It’s always difficult to make judgements based on the sample available, but the extent to which people are telling me and the Lib Dem team that they’re either voting for us or thinking of voting for us is significant. Old-style voting along tribalistic lines (“Always voted Labour; my family has always voted Labour”) is just not there in the way that it was.
With eleven days to go before it’s all over, anything could happen. A week’s a long time in politics, so they say (who did say that first?) and the best outcome of all from these debates is that people on the streets and the doorsteps in Hackney are thinking openly about casting their vote. No longer thinking “I’m voting Labour to keep the Tories out” they know the political landscape has shifted.