There are very few politicians that come along and at a stroke change the weather. Since the war this unique club is made up of a handful of members: Anthony Eden (Suez); Harold Wilson; Margaret Thatcher; and Tony Blair. Two further nominations should be considered.
Enoch Powell would not be welcomed by the others, but his controversial “rivers of blood” speech” did directly influence the result of the 1970 election. His later intervention during the February 1974 election should also not be forgotten.
Roy Jenkins become a temporary member for a short period when he foolishly decided to create the SDP. But once that ill-thought-out brainwave collapsed his membership was terminated.
This brings us neatly on to Nick Clegg. He may well become a permanent member. That all depends if he swims or sinks during the coming days, but he has changed the weather of the campaign. The polls are only one factor.
Labour will attack the Lib Dems over the coming days, but this should be treated with a pinch of salt. They need the Lib Dems to take seats from the Tories in the South-west and South, but not in the North. The danger for Brown only becomes real if Clegg eats into those heartlands.
However, Clegg’s rise to greatness is far more damaging to the Tories and the principal casualty is David Cameron.
It had been assumed that he would enthuse and inspire the voters during the campaign. It was Cameron that was expected to light up the sky with his vision and to engage with the electorate. It hasn't happened. All we have had is a non-tax cut, “efficiency savings” and a glitzy manifesto launch, when he politely informed us we would have to become experts in DIY.
The subtlety of what took place on Thursday night is profound. The clothes that Cameron was expected to wear during the campaign have been taken from him. It is Clegg that has inspired and cut through to the electorate, and by doing so has put the Tories firmly on the defensive.
Little doubt Team Cameron are having ‘don’t panic yet’ meetings this weekend in an attempt to tweak their strategy. But they need more than that. The Tories need Clegg to ‘crash and burn’ spectacularly during the coming days, and for Cameron to score heavily in the second debate. Without both of these little happenings, he will be in deep trouble.
One more small matter. If the polls do continue to indicate a hung parliament, the turnout is likely to be high, which favours Labour rather than the Tories.
Cameron has to hope that the after-effect of that volcano that exploded on Thursday evening quickly evaporates, otherwise Nick Clegg may well join that unique club of politicians that have changed the weather.