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Thursday, February 20, 2014

How Nick Clegg changed British politics

It is always interesting to read the views of the comrades in the Labour Party, no more so when they are not invoking class warfare. That is why I was particularly interested in this view on Labour Uncut which suggests that Labour need to acknowledge the way Nick Clegg has changed the political landscape in this country:

Any fool can kick Nick Clegg. The Labour party, so often by far the most sanctimonious of the main political parties, has reduced this to a sorry art-form. When Clegg entered the coalition government with the Conservatives, the Labour party, always quick to feel betrayed, duly howled blue murder. It was treason of a high order. If there is one thing the Labour party does well it is hatred, and hate we did.

A more nuanced view would rightly ask what else was the leader of the Liberal Democrats meant to do? The only other option open to Clegg was to stand aloof, tolerating a minority Tory government and most likely precipitating another early election. The country, having just gone through the toils of a general election, would not have taken kindly to such short-sightedness. An alliance with Labour, who had just been decimated in the polls, would have been simply incredible. And were another election called, Labour, leader-less, penny-less, would have been destroyed. But for some in the party this is the utopia that could and should have happened until that bastard Clegg came along.

For Labour, Clegg has served the purpose of a lightening-rod of discontent; witness the recent talk of “decapitating” the Liberal Democrat leader from his Sheffield Hallam constituency. It is an odd strategy to pursue when, as reported on Uncut, the party cannot even target its rather overly-optimistic 106 seats for 2015 and is fully nineteen thousand votes behind Clegg in the constituency. But it is part of a wider strategy in that it is far more comforting for party to believe that it was Clegg’s personal desire, rather than cold parliamentary arithmetic, which killed off the “progressive majority” and blame him for all ills.

David Talbot, who wrote the piece says that Clegg has shown the others how to manage a political party, whilst soaking up all the abuse that has been directed at him. He concludes:

Far from being out of power for a generation, Clegg could have found the path to office for a generation. His greatest triumph was to prove that coalition, the only form of governance in which the Liberal Democrats can legitimately partake, is a workable form of British government. That prize is worth all the abuse alone, for it gives his party a reason for existing – and governing – in the long term.

Just as the coalition may be judged more thoughtfully by history than by the present, so history may see in Clegg’s conduct a degree of cunning. He rightly judged that in the immediate moments post the general election Cameron needed him more than he needed them, and as a result deftly extracted key cabinet positions and policy concessions. For sure, it has been rough for his party. The people are the ultimate arbiters and the polls do not do a disservice. But then any other strategy would have been far worse.

In 2010, many in the Granada studios thought Clegg was merely a kingmaker for day. But he has the opportunity to be a permanent fixture of this country’s government, the perennial kingmaker, forever determining who wears the crown. He may no longer be hailed as the “game-changer” but he has surely changed British politics.
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