The Curmudgeon


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Death of a Salesman

As a retired Liberal Democrat voter, circa 2011 vintage, I cannot leave the subject of Thursday's fiasco without venting a little spite upon the head of Nick Clegg.

It is difficult to criticise Clegg's initial decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives. The five-year parliament act was not in force in 2010, so without such a formal arrangement Daveybloke could have pushed through a few "populist" migrant-bashing measures, called another election in a year or two and got in with a majority. What Clegg in fact did wrong was to spend five years acting as Tony Blair to Daveybloke's George W Bush, conniving at a vicious campaign of shock and awe unleashed on those least able to withstand it.

The first betrayal was not tuition fees, but proportional representation. In the amorous glow of the first rose-garden fervour, Clegg and his colleagues agreed to a wishy-washy compromise in the alternative vote, and then allowed the Conservatives and their chums to campaign against the change, using Clegg's own duplicity over tuition fees as ammunition. Since Clegg was at that stage relatively new to the game of dealing with his smarmy Mephistopheles, the error might have been forgivable had there been much sign of principle in other matters, There wasn't: Clegg and his troops toddled through the division lobbies on (and sometimes in) the arms of the Bullingdon Club for kicking the poor, privatising the justice system, running schools every which way, and throwing disabled people out of their houses. In return, the Bullingdons dished out sniggering humiliation at every opportunity, notably when Daveybloke and Osborne biffed off happily to Brussels in order to veto the Continent without deigning to inform their soi-disant partner first.

Least forgivable of all was the Health and Social Care Act, which was opposed by virtually everyone in the country except for the private healthcare lobby, the Bullingdon Club, some Turkey Twizzler salesmen and the Liberal Democrats. Breaking up and privatising the NHS, and incidentally absolving the Health Secretary of any responsibility for public health, were not part of either party's manifesto and were not specified in the coalition agreement (one Lib Dem peer said that it "drove a coach and horses" through the latter), but Clegg's robotic salesmanship and Shirley Williams' granny-of-the-Party act got it all shovelled through.

By 2014, when even Clegg and his ridiculous cohorts had realised that peeping out of Bullingdon suit pockets was pehaps not the best look in the world, virtually nothing remained. The Liberal Democrats had held more or less firm on the snoopers' charter and the EU, and a week before the election Clegg was making noises to the effect that he would sell out on Europe as well. It was the same approach that cost him MEPs, councillors, activists, party members and any veneer of a "new politics," and the response was entirely deserved. The Liberal Democrat vote was split five ways, between Labour, the Conservatives, the Greens, the Farage Falange and the sad, sagging, fleshless rump of Lib Dem voters who still seem to think the party stands for something. Few will mourn, because a party which offers nothing more than being not quite the same as the others is really no great loss.

The term that best fits Clegg, beyond a few from the Anglo-Saxon, is technocrat, a Newspeak word for those who view political office as a middle-management function between the corporations and the proles. They often do quite well for themselves, but not generally by pretending to be liberal or democratic; particularly when the pretence is as shallow and short-lived as Clegg's turned out to be.


  • At 10:56 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    "What Clegg in fact did wrong was to spend five years acting as Tony Blair to Daveybloke's George W Bush, conniving at a vicious campaign of shock and awe unleashed on those least able to withstand it."

    A phrase that comes up when you talk to FCO people and the like about the invasion of Iraq is "UK policy was to stick close to the Americans so as to influence them". To which I normally say "And did you have a policy for when you weren't influencing the Americans?" And they normally just look blank: they appear not to have thought of what they would do in those circumstances. But they must have thought about it, surely?


  • At 11:40 pm , Blogger Philip said...

    Someone (it may have been Geoffrey Wheatcroft in Yo, Blair!) wrote that he'd gone through dozens of American books on the Iraq war and found that Blair's influence on US policy had somehow escaped mention in any of them. No doubt history will be equally respectful towards the Liberal Democrat influence on the Conservative administration of 2010-2015.


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