Charles Clarke will be the man to watch come the next General Election. The odds of him holging onto marginal Norwich South must be evens but there is a long wya to go between then and now. The LibDems are salivating at the chance of winning the seat, but as I canvassed this afternoon and evening in Eaton, the doorstep responses I got clearly demonstrated the 3 great obstacles blocking the LibDem path.
Firstly is that the former Labour vote isn't going en bloc to the LibDems - it seems to be splitting between the two other main parties, and in Eaton village at least mainly to the Conservatives. People still realise that next time the PM will either be Cameron or Brown. The LibDems, despite the rise in bar charts, are still not seem as the natural challengers in the seat.
Secondly the stubborn nature of the Tory vote. The LibDems are ruthlessly targeting the big Tory vote in Norwich South to encourage them to vote tactically. However it seems the Norwich Tory vote isn't in any mood to put a LibDem MP into parliament any more than a Labour one. I cannot image a single Conservative voter I spoke to today voting LibDem, even tactically. In fact, there was much venom saved for the LibDems, particularly because of their disasterous tenure in charge at City Hall.
Thirdly is the creeping Green vote. I used to think the Green vote only existed where their party worked hard. But Ramsay's media strategy must be paying off - they have a healthy vote, even in the bastion of Eaton village. Most of note was the fact that nearlly all the Green voters were ex-LibDem ones.
All this spells trouble for the LibDems and their ill-fated campaign. The Greens and the Tories will rain on their parade and I fear that whilst Ian Couzens may be gone, his shadow looms large over their efforts.
By now the LibDems should have a set place as the clear challengers and a lock down on the tactical vote against Labour. They haven't - and this makes me thik that something is wrong. Is it their party, their record, their campaign or their candidate? I understand some senior LibDems think it may just be all four.