Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nick Clegg: There is no future for us as left-wing rivals to Labour.

It really does seem as if Nick Clegg has given up all pretence that he is a progressive at heart when he finds himself stating that there is "no future" for the Liberal Democrats as a left-wing alternative to Labour.

I wonder how the Liberals will feel about that? I imagine that many of them will be squirming at that statement. They certainly fought the last election on a platform which was, to their credit, way to the left of Labour. They showed a courage in the progressive cause which Labour, in it's quest to attract Daily Mail readers, was too cowardly to emulate.

"There were some people, particularly around the height of the Iraq war, who gave up on the Labour Party and turned to the Liberal Democrats as a sort of left-wing conscience of the Labour Party."

"I totally understand that some of these people are not happy with what the Lib Dems are doing in coalition with the Conservatives. The Lib Dems never were and aren't a receptacle for left-wing dissatisfaction with the Labour Party. There is no future for that; there never was."
Clearly, Clegg is giving up on a section of his own party, those who moved towards the Liberal Democrats out of dissatisfaction with New Labour. And he says this as support for his party inevitably slumps.
An Ipsos MORI poll this week showed Labour and the Tories neck and neck on 37 per cent with Liberal Democrats on 15 per cent, down from the 23 per cent they won at the May election.
Next week he faces his first party conference, and he seems to accept that it's not going to be an easy one.

"When you go into government, particularly in such a dramatic way, you get a bunch of Liberal Democrats who walk through the door of Whitehall and the rest of the party does not necessarily walk through the door with you.

"So this [conference] is an incredibly important opportunity for those Liberal Democrats who are in government to show people in the party that they retain the same values, instincts and ambitions – that walking through the door of power does not mean you lose your soul."

I don't think Clegg has lost his soul by going into coalition with the Tories, but I do think that he has been forced to reveal it. And it's much more right wing than he led any of us to believe.

He'll get through next week without too much bother, but the truth is that many in his own party are not of his political persuasion. The trouble lies further down the road. But, when it blows, it's going to be catastrophic.

Clegg might survive. The Liberals Democrats might survive. But they can't both survive. One has to give.

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