Saturday, 7 May 2011

Side Show Nick

Nick Clegg seemed to be taking things a bit personally, even before the 'public execution' on Thursday. At least now he knows it's not all in the mind, I expect that'll save a bit on therapist bills. Still, he got a good seat at the Royal Wedding and his pledge to end the jobs for life culture of MPs seems to have worked in his case.

Now all the fuss has died down, and the crowd has drifted away, can it be my turn to wade in and kick the man when he's down? You're really not that good Nick. You had a decent half hour on a public debate and I think it went to a lot of people's heads but unfortunately, and this is the real problem, hot air is simply hot air and politicians are still judged, by supporters at least, by their actions rather than by their promises. Nick Clegg, you very quickly became Richard Rich to David Cameron's Thomas Cromwell, which, in this 'Man For All Seasons' analogy I've embarked on, makes me either the common man or Sir Thomas More depending on how much red wine I've consumed.

Having said all that, I'm pretty cross with the political commentators who explained away the Lib Dem defeat by glibly characterising their supporters as protest voters. There still seems to be a paucity of thought around voter motivation and political expectation. Many Liberal supporters, far from protesting about anything, used to vote orange because they believed in lots of things unprovided for elsewhere. Call it naive, and you will, but I thought the Liberal Democrats stood for something, lots of things, one of them being integrity. It turns out they were doing exactly what tired old commentators accused them of doing - promising the earth because they could, agreeing with anything, because it didn't matter.

The Liberal Democrats won't be back in my lifetime because their Unique Selling Point has vanished. Many of us, MANY of us, saw the short termism of Labour (Tory) policies and the impending disaster of living off credit. We weren't all having a party, most of us were just doing what we had to do to keep up. We didn't want to be, or want, Billionaires. The Liberals offered a way back to community policies rooted in the health and good of the nation, building a society based on plenty and moving forward with compassion and purpose. Then, in one single issue, the tuition fees, they showed that it had all been a mirage. They were exactly like the others. Saying what we wanted to hear because no-one else was saying it.

Those voters in the north have gone wearily back to Labour because perhaps they're better now? Faint chance. Those voters in the south have less options and for them, the Lib Dem's are still the only way of fighting the Tories. Those in Wales have rejected the unfashionably loony left policies of the nationalists and returned to the Labour comfort zone of a party which rebelled against its central leadership during the vacuous Blair years. Only in Scotland did anyone have a real option and lucky them, they've got a chance of not just better Government but complete disassociation.

The British either now support the cuts, overwhelmingly because they're not suffering with the roll back of public services, at least not yet, or they're against them because they are. Very few ordinary voters bother with the intellectual struggle of it when faced with personal failure or success. Vince Cable may rant against the tribal Conservatives but he's sharing a house with them, raking out the grate of the Tory fireplace so they can get another policy in the oven. Nick Clegg may not like the way we treat him but, well, tough. See you in the dole queue Cleggy?

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