In defense of Nick Clegg

Posted: 17th January 2011 by Get No Happy in News of the day, Politics
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Having managed to convince the population that New Labour hadn’t in fact been in charge for 13 years, and hadn’t overspent massively on every part of the country they didn’t sell off, Ed Miliband has claimed the victory in Oldham (Which Labour initially won by trying to incite a race war) was a strong message to the government. It is therefore time to examine this government, starting with it’s main antagonist.

It would be safe to say that Nick Clegg is not currently many peoples favourite person. In fact it would also be safe to say there hasn’t been such a speedy reversal of fortunes since Hiroshima was named ‘Japan’s Safest City’ on the 5th August 1945. However I feel much of the wild vitriol directed at Clegg is at best uninformed and unfair. So I thought I would offer up some comment for the defense of the accused. After all, despite their best effors, New Labour failed to do away with the whole pesky trail/evidence thing. If we must burn Nick for his crimes as a collaborator, lets at least do so for the right reasons.


and not just because he’s cheaper than heating-oil

The Liberal Democrats
The first part of this little defense concerns the Liberal Democrats as a party. Recent events have (sadly) demonstrated to me that my high opinion of Lib Dem voters was sadly misplaced, more a view generated by in-group favouritism than actual evidence. Why you ask? Well, for an awfully long time the key policy of the Lib Dems has been Proportional Representation – the crazy concept that each vote should count. The magic thing about PR is that unless the election is only between the hugs-and-love and the we-drink-the-blood-of-the-innocent parties (or held in Iran) it is very rare for a party to get a majority stake and thus each, much like a young male chimpanzee after a high ranking female, must form coalitions.


I’m genuinely unsure which I’d prefer to win an election

Now, it appears Lib Dem supporters were under the illusion that PR would automatically put us in power. Forever. Therefore it was a shock when the Coalition Government did things the Lib Dems, if they were in power as the elected government, would never do. Clearly individuals just assumed simply being in government was enough and the party would have a free hand to build it’s glorious liberal utopia. Without going into the specific results, for the Lib Dems to dominate decision making would ironically be very undemocratic, so it’s a little bit worrying that supporters of the only progressive & liberal party may have wanted to change the voting system on the assumption it would ensure us a reign to last a thousand years.

Boring boring facts
The Lib Dems are a party of only 57 seats (but with only 3% less of the popular vote than Labour btw…) and the junior partners of a government that is (to listen to some) one step away from flaying alive the babies of the poor. Yet here is a list of some of the Lib Dem manifesto pledges that have been, or on there way to being, made law:

Increase the income tax threshold to £10,000
Immediately restore the link between the basic state pension and earnings
Scrap ID cards
Invest £2.5bn in this ‘Pupil Premium’ to boost education spending for disadvantaged children
Scrap compulsory retirement ages, allowing those who wish to continue in work to do so
End the detention of children in immigration detention centers
Scrap the intrusive child database which was intended to hold the details of every child in England

And this is not to mention the AV voting system referendum, (which while not perfect is a significant step up from the current one) and the long-needed reforms to libel laws. These are just a few. Under Nick Clegg’s leadership the Liberal democrats have betrayed their principles by forcing the Tory-dominated Government to tax the poor less, to spend more on disadvantaged pupils and uphold civil liberties.


Look at him releasing children from detention. That bastard

The Faustian Pact
Now, I’m no longer a fan of the coalition (but see how I gave them at least a week to fuck it up before deciding this…): the huge cuts to higher education, the scrapping of the advanced skills teachers, the NHS reforms the Tories seemed to have dreamed up during the post-victory hangover to name but a few reasons why we should all be worried. And I’m not saying Clegg should be absolved of all responsibility; you can’t be so emphatic on an issue like tuition fees and be surprised by the reaction to your complete about turn, but I feel his and the Lib Dem’s role needs placing in perspective. Think of the position the party and Clegg were in after the election:

– He had gained good political capital attacking the illegitimacy of Brown’s government and our voting system in general, and said repeatedly he would not prop up Labour just because they weren’t the Tories
– The panicking markets demanded a strong government at a time of economic crisis. Despite the dubious legitimacy of their position to demand such things, this is the world we live in (helped no end by New Labour… just saying). This demanded a coalition government, not a minority Tory government with Harriet Harman’s goon squad voting down every budget.
– Gordon Brown was refusing to stand down as leader of the Labour Party, and thus of any coalition government.

What choice was there? Really? A weak government that may cause a Greek/Irish credit-rating scare and financial exodus ; to be ruled by an exhausted and morally bankrupt Labour party; or to make a pact with the devil. You can see his decision to enter a coalition in one of two ways: Clegg either sensed an opportunity to rule and in a lust for power threw away all dignity and morality akin to Saurman’s alliance with Mordor, or he did what may have been right for the country at the expense of his personal reputation and perhaps the party itself.


Although there is something familiar about the extension to Lib Dem HQ

Yes, his demonic pact has ‘shockingly’ turned out for the worse. Cameron has been very effective in using the Lib Dems to deliver bad news while he flies around pretending he cares about the World Cup. But the bile and anger directed at the Deputy by the party itself and the Lib Dem faithful let this happen, and Clegg will continue to be the Coalition flak jacket as long as this anger remains personal.

Fundamentally I believe that the vilification of Nick Clegg is unjustified. He’s been turned on because many didn’t really understand the realities of a coalition government and, quite frankly, because we’re upset Mommy didn’t throw us the birthday party she promised (A promise made before we knew just how much money Uncle Tony lost at the track I may add). Clegg had no other legitimate choice than to form a coalition government with the Tory Party. A coalition his party is a very small part of and yet, as the list above shows, has managed to place a lot of the flag-ship Lib Dem pledges (as well as a slew of smaller ones) into Coalition policy. He’s not a hero, but nor is he a villain.

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