Saturday, May 01, 2010

Nick Clegg: we have taken Labour's place in UK politics.

I really like Nick Clegg and I think he has had a far more successful election campaign than even he himself would have predicted a few short weeks ago.

But, as election day approaches, I think he is stretching reality slightly too far.

In a Guardian interview, Clegg accuses David Cameron of having no agenda for progressive reform of the country, and says the Lib Dems and Labour come from the same historical tradition.

Indeed they do, which is why I have previously wondered why he was talking about a coalition with the Tories rather than with Labour.

He says he is rejecting all talk of tactical voting and is instead "going for broke" to maximise his party's share of the vote.

Clegg insists that the tectonic plates of politics are shifting, and the choice has distilled down to a vote for his party or a Conservative party that will "cast the country adrift".

I think what he is saying there is true; the Tories will, indeed, "cast the country adrift". But that only makes me question why he has been flirting with the Tories all this time rather than seeking to make a genuine progressive alliance with Labour; the only party which shares the same mindset as the Liberal Democrats.

Obviously, it is his job as Liberal leader to claim that his party now replaces Labour as the progressive choice in this country, and I fully understand why he would wish to do that.

But, in reality, Clegg is not going to be our next Prime Minister, although it is very likely that he will enjoy the role of king-maker.

What side will he choose?

Will he seriously form an alliance with the party that he now says will "cast the country adrift?"

"What is striking is despite all the blather from Cameron over the past few weeks, he has made up his mind strategically to set his face against any profound reform of the political system. I think this will prove to be the biggest strategic error he has ever made, because one thing you cannot do is set your face against change when the demand for that change is so powerful that it is coming from millions of people.

"In terms of its DNA, the Conservative party is now the party of entrenched vested interests of politics."

That sounds to me like a threat to Cameron to reconsider his position on proportional representation.

And, should Cameron come out with the right answer, Clegg - despite all that he is saying here - will side with him.

And that's despite him saying this:

"I think if you look at the debate last night, there is just a gulf between what David Cameron stands for and what I stand for – in terms of values, in terms of internationalism, in terms of fairness, in terms of progressive tax reform, in terms of political reform, in terms of simply living in denial, as does Labour, about a major problem of their creation in the immigration system."

Asked if the same gulf existed with Labour, he says: "I have always accepted the first part of Roy Jenkins's analysis which says that historically Labour and Liberal Democrats are two wings of a progressive tradition in British politics." But Clegg maintains his party cannot be an annexe of Labour, and there is a fundamental difference between the two parties over the individual and the state.

I have no idea any more which direction Clegg is going to move in once this election is over, which is perhaps an indication of how well this poker player is dealing with his hand.

But it does sound to me as if Clegg is now going hell for leather for proportional representation and that he will side with whichever party agrees to give it to him. And Cameron is so desperate for power that my money is still on him as the person most likely to agree to whatever Clegg demands.

Click here for full article.

No comments: