2010 was ages ago, wasn’t it? It was a far more naïve, innocent time. It was a time when Nick Clegg seemed untouchable. Do you remember those smug, shrill, snot-nosed kids carrying around placards saying “I agree with Nick”? (Do they still agree with him I wonder? And if they do, do they walk around all day with placards telling us they do?)
How things have changed, dear readers. Nick Clegg has looked like a right little knobhead of late, hasn’t he? Even more so now he has lost his precious Lords reform proposals, proposals that he saw as guaranteeing him a ‘legacy’ that was something other than being remembered for signing the NHS’ death warrant and u-turning on pretty much everything in his parties’ general election manifesto.
It was not to be though. Clegg’s patron, David Cameron, unable to control the simple-minded Ayn Rand-worshipping mouth-breathers who make up his parliamentary party, has announced that the proposed legislation to make the Lords fully or partly elected will not be introduced in this parliament. The Lib Dem leader has responded, understandably, by putting the kibosh on the Tory’s boundary changes that were integral to their strategy to secure an overall majority at the next election (although Cameron intends to try and press ahead with them anyway…….)
So Nicky’s legacy will end being similar to Jeremy Thorpe’s and Paddy Ashdown’s. Just without the murder conviction or the extra-marital shagging.
The tit-for-tat between the two parties is all rather childish, and points up the contradiction at the heart of the coalition government. On the one hand they have a vaulting intellectual ambition to irrevocably roll back the frontiers of the state and make free market ideology utterly hegemonic. On the other they are led by political pygmies with virtually no tactical or strategic nous who stumble hopelessly from one disaster to the next. George Osborne, the government’s much-vaunted Machiavellian strategist, is in fact an incompetent clown, indeed I would go so far to suggest that he is the Steve Bruce of British politics, i.e. he has some people fooled but the rest of us know what a dick he is. I’ve never been impressed by Gideon, and thought him a class-A chump long before many other commentators had seen through him and it turns out, not for the first time in my life, that I was right and the Westminster village completely wrong about the vastly over-rated capabilities of the dark lord.
There are some Lib Dems who are genuine social democrats and surely must know that the damage this government is doing a) to their party and b) more importantly to the rest of us. The arguments in favour of austerity were always facile to those of us blessed with a bit of independence of thought but it is even becoming evident to people in the Conservative Party that the government’s ideological programme isn’t working even on its own terms. The death of Lords reform is surely the final nail in the coffin of the notion that the Lib Dems are getting anything from this relationship. Barring a dramatic change of circumstances (which could still happen incidentally) the Tories will struggle to get an overall majority in 2015 and the Lib Dems face annihilation.
Now would be a perfect time for those left in the party who joined not to act as cheerleaders for the Conservatives to discover their collective backbone and move against their leader and this government. When it is obvious that their party is gaining nothing from the coalition arrangement (the death of Lords reform is merely placing the tin hat on that notion) and is facing a bloodbath at the next election, failing to do so would represent a failure less of conscience and more of the instinct that one normally has towards self-preservation.
Peter Tatchell, a usually extremely reliable analyser of these issues, tweeted yesterday:
“If #Labour can overcome its sectarianism, it has chance to make deal with #LibDem backbench MPs to bring down #Tories & force gen election”
While I’m always suspicious of the concept of the “national interest” I know most Lib Dem and Labour MPs subscribe to it. If it does mean anything to them, they know what they (both) have to do. Whether they do or not is quite another matter of course.