Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg announced recently that he will stand for election again in 2015. His declaration of intent to lead the party into the next general election will, I presume, leave a cross section of Liberal democrats shuddering. Has too much damage been done to Clegg? I fear that the situation may run deeper than that; perhaps too much damage has been done to the party as a whole.
At the time of the last general election, with no clear majority (which now seems all the more pertinent) the Conservatives managed to take power with the aid of the Lib Dems and their coalition government. Many heralded this decision by Clegg to co-exist with the Tories – he could serve as a voice of reason, moderating the “nasty party”, ensuring that there wasn’t a return to a 1980s style assault on the poor. I think you’ll all agree with me that he’s done a fine job. Benefits have been frozen, allowing them to dip lower than inflation, forcing thousands even deeper into food and fuel poverty. University fees did rise. Frontline services have been – and continue to be – cut. The levels of child poverty and malnutrition in infants have risen exponentially. Privatisation of the NHS is on the cards and a very real threat. It’s ok though because he might have managed to squeeze in gay marriage somewhere, so it was definitely worth him joining the coalition.
Across the internet forums, facebook pages, twitter discussions and even large swathes of commercial media Clegg is dismissed as “spineless”. David Cameron’s punching bag, a target to let loose on every time he comes into contact with a pauper, or the House of Commons lunch hall is out of lobster. It’s a strange turn of events – if people cast their minds back it was largely his charismatic and warm appearances on televised debates that helped his party win seats in the last election. That and Gordon Brown’s face, I imagine. The Liberal Democrats won more seats than ever before, poaching disillusioned Labour voters that had grown tired of Brown’s lacklustre speeches and general blustering. The problem was, people had forgotten. People had forgotten that voting for the Liberal Democrats would help the Tories into power. People had forgotten what the Tories did last time we were in an economic downturn and they have now forgotten that our economy was actually growing again when Labour left office.
So, the Liberal Democrats won some votes, Labour won less than usual and the Conservatives had garnered more than their usual level of support. The road was paved for a coalition government and in the words of everybody’s mum, ever, “I knew it was going to be trouble”. I accept that perhaps there isn’t a huge amount that the Lib Dems can do, I know that their power is limited – but to sit by meekly and watch a full scale assault on the poor & disabled is, for me, unforgivable. The new motto for the party is:
“Change that works for you. Building a fairer Britain”
Now, I don’t want to launch into a diatribe about tax cuts for the rich and go back into the benefit cap, but anybody with an ounce of brain power can see that there is very little “fairness” being meted out in Parliament of late. So Mr Clegg, people did forget – and it helped you get to where you are now. People won’t forget what has happened under your supervision, however. People won’t forget that you presided over benefit caps, the ATOS scandal and the bedroom tax. I will certainly never forget that the supposed “left-wing” party of Britain were in some position of power whilst disabled people passed away or took their own lives, because they were left destitute. I don’t just think the coalition is the end of Clegg, I think it is the end of the Lib Dems.