One thing people often say to me is: “we love your blog Mambo. You’re so even handed and you always see the best in people. Why can’t everyone else be like you?” Which is very true.
One man I try to be particularly even-handed about is Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg. But his latest comments really do require a word or two of critical comment from yours truly.
Now the article in question is blocked by a Times paywall; I haven’t read it as I’m not prepared to hand over my cash to read a paper that is just very, very dull. But the article itself isn’t particularly significant; it’s this interesting line within it that has caused a slight stir:
“The biggest divide in politics today – here and around the world – is between those who offer leadership and those who only offer dissent.”
Now one could quite justifiably make the argument that it’s just profound-sounding but actually meaningless gibberish and safely ignored. But I actually think it’s quite a revealing few words.
In the first instance, it is a tacit admission of political bankruptcy. After all, the Lib Dems have built themselves a significant electoral base in recent years by being the party of (frequently totally incoherent and contradictory) opposition and empty dissent. They proposed and opposed things safe in the knowledge that in third party opposition they could say what they wished and not worry about the consequences. So in essence Clegg is critiquing, and lambasting, himself.
Secondly, it is a demonstration of serious delusion. Clegg is suggesting that by joining the coalition a) him and by extension his party are ‘leaders’- even though it is rather more accurate to describe them as mere errand boys who gave the Tories the majority they weren’t able to secure by their own efforts and b) it was a high-minded move based on a desire to serve the national interest in this time of emergency. Pull the other one Nicky.
Essentially Clegg is characterising the government’s critics as ‘dissenters’ as if dissent is somehow a term of abuse, and not the motive force behind all the progressive change we have ever seen and will ever see, the kind of change that Clegg and his party of ‘radical’ liberals often claim to be in favour of. He is implying that anyone opposed to this government’s agenda is an oppositionist for the sake of it. A laughable, cynical and borderline apolitical proposition, albeit a more subtle iteration of the TINA argument than his Tory partners are capable of-if the government is doing the right thing then any opposition is meaningless……. an interesting, slightly desperate-sounding argument from the Deputy PM.
Clegg is not offering ‘leadership’ in any meaningful sense, unless he thinks ‘leadership’ is actually capitulation to one’s coalition partners and the espousal of a thoroughly hackneyed and discredited set of ideas, ideas that got us into this mess into the first place.
I think it’s quite interesting that Clegg and other senior Lib Dems are coming out and trying to justify themselves and their record so vociferously at the moment. It betrays a real insecurity.