Behavioural politics, day 20 of 30

If Labour's going to make a fightback, it better start today.

Nick Clegg may have made his first tactical mistake - allowing himself to be led, in a TV interview, into making an apparent commitment not to enter a coalition with Gordon Brown as prime minister if Labour comes third in share of the vote. This is a surprisingly concrete commitment, and provides more ammunition for opponents to use against him than it does for him to strengthen his position. By precommitting himself, he loses a lot of power in electoral game theory; he has to hope that it gains him enough to make up for it.

The other problem for the Lib Dems is that the News of the World has dug up a poll showing their support falling by about eight percent, putting them well back in third place. Together, these events offer the other parties the chance to create a narrative about Lib Dem hubris, overreach and collapse.

Some policy today. Labour with a believable, therefore clever, attack on Tory policy - suggesting that they'd introduce top-up fees for nurseries. David Cameron providing some welcome concrete detail on his Big Society strategy - it means a lot more to people to imagine taking control of their own school than to discuss citizen empowerment in general. And Clegg honourably defending his position on immigration - I wish that were a winning strategy but I suspect it's not, because of the greater salience of fear over hope.

On balance the Conservatives do better out of today, because any weakness for the Lib Dems is much more favourable to Tory than Labour prospects. But mostly it's by default - there were no strategic masterstrokes today.

Ratings: Conservative 7/10, Labour 6/10, Liberal Democrat 5/10.


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