Half of Lib-Dems want Nick Clegg to resign before the next election: how did it all go wrong?

by Ray_North on August 22, 2012

A poll by Lib-Dem Voice has revealed that almost half of Lib-Dems want Nick Clegg to resign before the next general election – which does beg the question, what do the other half want? Father Christmas to come and bring them a big bags of toys? The tooth fairy to leave them a shiny coin under their pillow?

A part of me feels sort of sorry for Clegg – for a few hours back in April 2010, he seemed like he was a person who could fill a void in British politics, someone who was charismatic and clever and not shackled by the burden of being the Leader of either the Tories or Labour.

Then, it all started to go so wrong that even during the wonderfully feel-good atmosphere of the Olympics, fans took time out to boo him when he turned up at various arenas. Why? How did Clegg’s star plummet so catastrophically?

First, without doubt, Clegg started to believe his own hype – all that, ‘I agree with Nick’ nonsense, meant that Clegg believed that he had the personality and popular backing that allows a politician to get away with the worst kind of mistakes and u-turns – he didn’t, he doesn’t.

Second, he committed the cardinal error of surrounding himself with ‘yes – men’ people who love him and think that everything he says is beyond question – this is always dangerous for politicians, every politician needs someone who he trusts and and respects who is willing to say, no, you’ve got that wrong.

Third, his unwillingness to listen to public opinion and his inability to understand public opinion, was exposed – a very senior Lib-Dem Peer, once told me that he was absolutely astounded by Clegg’s refusal to read a good commentary piece by a respected Times Home Affairs Correspondent- ‘I don’t read newspapers,’ the Deputy PM had told him. Don’t read newspapers – crikey, that’s dangerously arrogant.

Fourth, his head was turned by dark forces within his own party – in recent years, the rise of the right wing within the Lib-Dems has been, perhaps, underestimated, due to the vocal social-liberal-democrats who were traditionally dominant under the leadership of Ashdown and Kennedy. Clegg, was always a member of the ‘Orange Bookers’ and when their like (Davey, Alexander, Laws et al) acquired cabinet posts in the coalition, their right wing ideas came more prominently to the fore and they forgot that the modern Lib-Dems, and more importantly the modern Lib-Dem voter is actually more social democrat than Tory.

Fifth, his head was turned by the dark forces within the Tory Party – Clegg, as a former public schoolboy, Cambridge educated, career politician, who has much in common with the likes of Cameron and Osborne – it is not hard to see how they were able to persuade him of the benefits of going into coalition with the Conservatives, the natural empathy between them could be seen during the awful photo-ops in the Downing Street Rose Garden – and the voters and party members didn’t like it.

Sixth, of all the u-turns he has made and manifesto promises he has reneged upon, the most significant was the one concerning the economy when he, David Laws and VInce Cable, collectively bought the Tory line that unless there was widespread and fundamental austerity introduced immediately, then the UK economy would end up like Greece. It was a totally incorrect analysis and the austerity measures have proved themselves to be socially and economically disastrous. A politician with a bit more experience and perhaps some kind of economic philosophy would not have bought into the Thatcherite programme.

Seventh, he allowed his party to become far too rigid and disciplined – in attempting to maintain the party line and refusing to countenance any dissent, the Lib-Dems have been unable to rid themselves of the perception most people have that they are collectively just as callous as the Tories, but even more self-serving – it is a devastating combination that will see them suffer in the polls.

Eighth, he has totally failed to understand the nature of the Tory party he is in bed with – they are by nature, against constitutional change and in favour of laissez faire economic theory and a reduction in the state at all costs – Clegg failed to appreciate that and was unable to form a coalition that ensured that any form of dogma was ditched in favour of a proper and collegiate form of governance.

Ninth, he put all his eggs into the wrong basket – Clegg’s attempts to obtain a change in the voting system and a reform of the Lords were woeful; his lack of political savvy left him looking like a bungling amateur. Furthermore, by attempting to flex his muscles about constitutional matters, whilst remaining mute about issues such as the economy, the NHS and education (in particular the increase in University tuition fees), he looks like someone with a political strategy that is all about his party at the expense of the issues that are of concern to the ordinary people.

I am not surprised that half his party want him to resign before the general election – I am only surprised that half of his party actually want him to stay.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Charlie East-West August 23, 2012 at 1:08 pm

A really insightful summary.

Another hidden agenda in all of this is does Nick Clegg really care? If he loses his seat at the next election, he will turn towards the routes of patronage – a top heavy position within the EU, or a number lucrative directorships that inevitably await former government ministers. Ditto Alexander. Ditto Laws. Ditto Davey.

Are we really all in this together? The coalition spread the dung, the public get to roll in it.

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