I ask this question after hearing Charles Kennedy interviewed on Today at about 7.20am. Interesting that it was 7.20am – hardly a flattering slot for the leader of Britain’s self-styled "real" opposition.
It was an interview about how the LibDems might respond to the arrival of "Cameron’s Conservatives". A package before Kennedy was interviewed made it clear that many of his parliamentary colleagues are concerned at the lazy drift of his leadership since the election – and about his failure to find a way of knitting together the big state liberals like Simon Hughes and the more economically liberal, less excited-about-Brussels, Orange Book LibDems like Mark Oaten.
Although Ferdinand Mount recently noted increasing similarity between LibDem/ Conservative policies, Mr Kennedy insisted that the LibDems were still well-policy-positioned against the Conservatives and he highlighted some key areas of policy difference: tuition fees, Iraq and (nuclear) energy policy.
Interesting that he emphasised policy (as Tony Blair did yesterday at PMQs by pointing to differences with David Cameron on education spending and the Climate Change levy). The root of the LibDems’ appeal has never really been policy, however. They’ve always appealed to voters because they themselves have appeared moderate, reasonable, consensual and compassionate. David Cameron is now claiming all of those qualities for his own leadership.
The Tories cannot win the next election without making inroads into the LibDem vote. The hope must be that voters in Twickenham, Romsey and Taunton etc will know that choosing that nice, moderate and hardworking new Tory candidate is the best way of replacing a majority Labour government with a majority alternative government.