Cleggmania could change the world’s elections
If it can happen in traditional old Britain, consumer power can take root anywhere

Published May 3, 2010

It used to be the case that UK campaigns were thought to follow the US lead closely: Clinton’s War Room in 1992 became Blair’s Millbank in 1997; Bush’s Compassionate Conservatism in 2000 became Hague’s in 2001.

For the rise of Nick Clegg, however, there is no US antecedent. Whatever the hype surrounding Mr Clegg, he is no Obama — but nor is he a maverick like Ross Perot. The growth of a third choice in this election provides an interesting wake-up call for the two establishment parties in the UK, but it also offers a warning to the Democrats and Republicans of what they may face in the future.

On both sides of the Atlantic, in the world outside politics, consumers have become hugely more empowered over the past two decades through greater choice, information and control. Step into a Starbucks today and you can choose from 155 different types of coffee. TV programmes need not be watched when they are broadcast — instead they can be saved to Sky Plus or streamed from iPlayer to be watched when it suits you. Gone are the days when you relied on a salesman’s advice; today it is rare for anyone to buy anything without first reading multiple consumer reviews online and searching the net for the best deal.

Unsurprisingly, consumers who are used to a significant level of choice and control in their everyday lives are increasingly demanding the same in the political realm, where change has been at best ignored and at worst opposed.

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